Anna Sarah Krämer

COAST - Zentrum für Umwelt- und Nachhaltigkeitsforschung

A05-035 (» Adress and map )

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Greenhouse Gas Balance

An elementary component of the integrated climate protection concept is the greenhouse gas balance, which records the actual state of emissions. The Carl von Ossietzky University balances its emissions using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol for short).

The years 2019 and 2020 were set as the base years. The reason for this is the strong fluctuations in emissions due to the effects of the Corona pandemic, especially in the area of business trips, semesters abroad and everyday mobility. 

The emissions shown are based on the federal electricity mix.

System Boundaries

The goal in preparing the greenhouse gas balance (GHG balance for short) was to capture and record the emissions attributable to the university's activities as comprehensively as possible. The following areas were taken into account:

  • Scope 1: Gas procurement, vehicle fleet (without upstream chains)
  • Scope 2: Electricty procurment (consideration of the federal electricy mix)
  • Scope 3:
    • Upstream Chain (Building energy & Vehicle fleet)
    • Mobilität (Business trips, semester abroad, every day mobility*)
    • Procurement (EDP, paper)
    • Catering (Meat)
    • Procurement of water & Sewage

The aim is to further develop and refine the data basis for GHG balancing in the future so that areas that have not been taken into account so far (e.g. office furniture, overnight stays during business trips, etc.) can also be included in the balance.

At this point, it should be noted that so far there is no uniform rule or regulation for universities and colleges, or for educational institutions in general, on the balancing of GHG emissions. Therefore, when comparing with other universities, differences in base years, system boundaries, and application of accounting standards must be taken into account.

* The data basis for the field of action "everyday mobility" is a very rough projection. The quality of the data in this area will be improved for the update of the balance sheet.

Total Emissions

Carl von Ossietzky University's total emissions in 2019 were 21,378 t CO2 equivalents. The impact of the Corona pandemic had a large reducing effect on the university's emissions, resulting in a total of 14,528 t CO2 equivalents for 2020. The federal electricity mix was included in these values to allow for better comparability with other surveys.


Broken down into the three scopes of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the emissions are as follows. It becomes particularly clear how decisive the inclusion of emissions from Scope 3 is for the overall balance. Scope 1 accounted for a total of 4,667 t CO2 equivalents in 2019 and 5,491 t CO2 equivalents in 2020. Scope 2 accounted for 7,778 t CO2 equivalents in 2019, taking into account the federal electricity mix, and 4,843 t CO2 equivalents in 2020. Scope 3 recorded 8,934 t CO2 equivalents in 2019, and 4,194 t CO2 equivalents in 2020.

The increase in scope 1 emissions is attributable to the commissioning of the natural gas-fired combined heat and power plant at the Wechloy site. At the same time, this again reduced emissions in Scope 2 for electricity purchases. The sharp reduction in emissions in Scope 3 is due to the pronounced decrease in mobility as a result of the Corona pandemic.

Emissions per Member of the University

Particularly with a view to updating the balance sheet, another important indicator is the emissions per university employee. The reason for this is that it is socially beneficial and welcome that the university is growing and attracting new researchers, students and administrative staff. However, this growth has a negative impact on overall emissions, as new buildings are constructed and put into operation, for example. Therefore, in terms of climate protection, it is important to track emissions in relation to the number of university members.

For 2019, 1.13 tons of CO2 equivalents were generated per university member (number of university members: 18,986) and in 2020, 0.78 tons of CO2 equivalents per capita were generated by university members (number of university members: 18,712).

Breakdown into Fields of Action

Building energy accounted for the largest share of total emissions. Here, a total of 14,430 t CO2 equivalents were generated in 2019, and 12,318 t CO2 equivalents in 2020. Thus, this sector accounted for 67.5% of total emissions in 2019 and as much as 84.78% in 2020. Accordingly, to achieve climate neutrality, climate protection measures in this area are of particular importance.

According to this, the GHG balance also shows the importance of the mobility field of action. This area accounted for 28.68% of total emissions in 2019 (4,528 t CO2 equivalents for everyday mobility**, 1,603 t CO2 equivalents for international mobility and vehicle fleet). The pandemic reduced the share of this sector in 2020 to 11.76% (1,129 t CO2 equivalents by everyday mobility, 580 t CO2 equivalents by international mobility and vehicle fleet).

** In the table, the mobility sector is being split up for two reasons. Firstly, the significance of everyday mobility can be clarified in this way. Second, the quality of the data basis is not as high as the data for the subsectors of international mobility and vehicle fleet. This weakness in the accounting should be made transparent at this point.

The emissions in the area of procurement and university catering are relatively small. Procurement accounts for 348 t CO2 equivalents in 2019 and a total of 304 t CO2 equivalents in 2020. This area thus accounted for 1.63% of total emissions in 2019, and 2.09% in 2020. University catering accounted for 469 t CO2 equivalents in 2019, and 198 t CO2 equivalents in 2020. Thus, the share of emissions from the cafeteria decreased from 2.19% in 2019 to 1.36% in 2020. This reduction is also due to the pandemic period and associated closure of university catering, or the restricted campus operations. At this point, it should be noted for the two areas that the comparatively low emission values should not diminish the relevance of these fields of action. This is due to the fact that only a limited database could be used in this area as well. Here, the present GHG balance represents the beginning of a comprehensive balancing of emissions, which is to be further improved in the coming years. In addition, these two areas (as in principle all areas of the balance) are to be considered under a holistic understanding of sustainability (careful use of resources, compliance with human rights along the value chain, animal welfare, etc.).

Updating the Balance and Utilization of the Results

A controlling concept will also be developed for the climate protection concept in the course of 2022 and a decision will be made as to how and in what cycle the development of emissions will be monitored and controlled.

The results for 2019 and 2020 now lay the foundation for the development of climate protection measures to achieve climate neutrality. These will be developed and discussed, among other things, in participatory workshops in June 2022.

Dual Reporting

The accounting standard of the GHG Protocol stipulates that emissions in Scope 2 must be presented using two different approaches.

On the one hand, the location-based approach applies, according to which the emissions from electricity procurement are to be determined taking into account the federal electricity mix. This is intended to compensate for regional differences in the electricity mix purchased in order to enable better comparability of the figures. In addition, this approach allows for a better representation of the effect of efficiency measures in electricity consumption on emissions. Under this approach, the university's total emissions are 21,378 metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2019 and 14,528 metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2020.

According to the market-based approach, it can be taken into account that the organization already purchases green electricity from a green electricity contract. At this point, therefore, the guarantees of origin from the production of renewable energy from third parties can be credited. Through the state of Lower Saxony, the University of Oldenburg is integrated into a framework agreement for green electricity. According to this, the emissions in the market-related approach for Scope 2 (=electricity purchase) are to be set at 0 t CO2 equivalents. The total emissions are then 12,838 t CO2 equivalents in 2019 and 9,054 t CO2 equivalents in 2020. This increases the share of the other action fields in the total emissions.

(Changed: 20 Apr 2022)