Potentials and limitations of carbon calculators

In various countries and regions in Europe as well as in North America, different carbon calculators are used to work out the carbon footprint. In the bachelor thesis Opportunities and limitations of carbon calculators on the road to sustainable film and television productions, Martin Jetter, graduate of the Hochschule der Medien Stuttgart, examined five carbon calculators with regard to their structure and methodology.


In the US, film productions work with the carbon calculator PEAR (Production Environmental Acounting Report), which is offered by PGA Green and the Sustainable Production Alliance (SPA). In France, producers measure the carbon footprint with the Carbon’ Clap, which was developed by Ecoprod. The Vlams Audiovisuel Fonds (VAF) in the Belgian region Flanders provides filmmakers with E-Mission. In the United Kingdom the BAFTA-led albert consortium offers the Albert carbon calculator. In Germany, the MFG film fund in Baden-Würtemberg commissioned KlimAktiv to create a carbon calculator for film and TV productions.


„When examining th five calculators, it can be seen that they have clearly different focuses", states Jetter, who highlighted unique features as well as the weak points in the comparison of the carbon calculators. „Certain areas remain completely unnoticed in some calculators, some lack broad possibilities of data recording or lack user-friendliness.“ Only PEAR and Carbon’ Clap take into acount the country of the emission source. Particularly for shots abroad or longer sections abroad, such as co-productions, it is crucial to consider the country of origin. The energy mix can differ from country to country because the primary energy comes from different sources.


In the field of mobility it appears that PEAR, Carbon’Clap as well as the MFG calculator sometimes lack important transport areas such as freight, public transport or ship transport. Although catering is an important area in film and TV productions, it is not included in the PEAR and Albert calculator. PEAR and E-Mission don’t include data on waste and disposal in the calculation.


„Post production is only marginal examined by all five calculators", emphasizes Jetter. While the PEAR does not explicitly include post production, users of the Carbon’ Clap and E-Mission can only specify the amount of days and costs for post-production. Albert and the MFG calculator are more comprehensive but still not acurate enough. Especially the power consumption, which can be considerable in post production not only by editing, sound, color correction but especially by rendering, is examined in al five calculators with little to no accuracy.


Before the development of PEAR, the major studios in the US used different approaches to calculate the carbon emissions of their productions, as Audrey Vinant-Tang, Corporate Sustainability Manager, Viacom CBS, points out. Thanks to the same methodology that is used in PEAR, the film industry can better compare the carbon emissions of various productions. A key issue is the use of pre-and post-balancing, which should help the user in the planning stage to to avoid certain resources. If the balancing takes place after the production, the carbon emissions can be measured but not reduced anymore.



A country-specific calculator cannot be adapted for another country without problems because adaptions need to be made for an appropriate generation of a carbon calculation.The currently existing carbon calculators are structured very differently. The system boundaries of each calculator are set differently and the depth of input options varies greatly between the  calculators. A standardization can be facilitated by establishing and using a uniform methodology across country. The bachelor thesis Opportunities and limitations of carbon calculators on the road to sustainable film and television production by Marin Jetter is available for download.


Illustrations: © Martin Jetter

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