Hear directly from five businesses calling on governments to step up at COP24Jen Austin, Policy Director at the We Mean Business coalition
As governments gather in Poland for this year’s international climate talks, leading companies are calling for ambitious climate policies and long-term decarbonization targets, to provide the clarity and confidence they need to create the zero-carbon industries of the #FutureFaster.
Meet five companies from different industries that are already transforming at scale in pursuit of their bold climate targets. In the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C, which shows that the transition to net-zero emissions by 2050 is both possible and necessary and will have many benefits for economies and societies, these companies are doubling down on their calls for policy makers to step up to the next level and help deliver the Paris Agreement’s goal of pursuing efforts to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C.
Iberdrola calls for net-zero long-term strategies
International power utility Iberdrola has avoided 60 mt of CO2 entering the atmosphere in the last three years – which is equivalent to taking more than 60 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year – due to a suite of climate initiatives. These include extensive development of renewable electricity generation, and progressively shifting away from fossil fuel plants.
As part of its science-based target, the company is committed to reduce CO2 intensity 30% by 2020 compared from a 2007 base year; lower those emissions to less than 150g per kWh by 2030 (a 50% decrease); and to be carbon neutral by 2050.
To help Iberdrola to fully deliver on its bold climate targets, the company is calling for “long-term climate strategies, consistent with the Paris Agreement’s goals and the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” Gonzalo Sáenz de Miera, Director of Climate Change, at Iberdrola said.
These should include “legally binding decarbonization targets to be reached by 2030 and 2050; a wide approach to tackle all sectors of the economy; a recognition of the role of public-private partnerships; and a recognition of climate change as a risk to the economy,” Sáenz de Miera said.
In addition, Iberdrola is calling for “stringent implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement at COP24 that sends clear signals to investors and ensures environmental integrity.”
Signify calls for urgency to achieve carbon neutrality
Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) is already using 100% renewable electricity at its operations in the US and Canada, as part of its RE100* commitment to 100% renewable power globally. The company has set a science based target and is committed to being carbon neutral by 2020. They are working to achieve this through committing to 100% zero carbon electricity, fleets and buildings in their operations – helping accelerate the shift to electric vehicles with EV100*, and to owning or operating zero-carbon buildings. The world leader in connected LED lighting systems is also calling on governments around the world to step up their policy ambition on climate to drive a full decarbonization of these systems worldwide.
While the goals of the Paris Agreement are clear, the willingness for all signatories to act with urgency to achieve those goals is not always as obvious, according to Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Public and Government Affairs at Signify.
“What we would like to see from policy makers is that they embrace the ambition level that is fully aligned with the Paris Agreement,” Verhaar said.
“We see quite oddly that across the world, even between Europe and the US, you could say the … committed action and also the translation to local regulation is only about half of what is needed.”
“When kids go to school there is a fixed timeline, a fixed ambition level and there is no debate. I think as adults also, and in this case politicians, they need to stick to a required ambition level – carbon neutral by 2050,” he said.
Verhaar added that combining the required ambition level with integrated policies is the best approach. For example, by bringing in policies to renovate buildings and increase energy efficiency, using that energy to accelerate the electrification of transport, in conjunction with a shift to renewable energy.
Diageo calls for climate clarity
Diageo has already reduced its carbon emissions by 40.5%, from a 2007 base year despite increased scale and production, as part of its science-based target and commitment to 100% renewable energy with RE100*.
Now the leading alcoholic drinks manufacturer also stands ready to help governments, in various countries around the world, achieve their own national climate targets. However, in order to provide that help, the company needs governments to more clearly articulate their goals and policies, to inform the business’s plans and investments.
“What we would like from COP24 is greater clarity around how businesses can support the local delivery of national targets to address climate change,” Michael Alexander, Diageo’s Head of Water, Environment, Agriculture and Sustainability at Diageo said.
“For example, we’d like to see how Diageo can feed into the UK government’s climate change targets, or the Nigerian government’s, and so on, to achieve the Paris Agreement. We need to start to get into that level of detail, understanding local targets that companies can support.”
He added that alignment between government and business climate targets is vital to achieve overall impact.
“We set global targets, so what helps us is the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, because they contextualize our global targets. We want to be aligned with national targets locally, but it is the global, UN Agreements – that help set the agenda for our business,” Alexander said.
LanzaTech calls for policy vision
LanzaTech, which has developed a biological process for turning waste emissions from heavy industrial plants – such as steel mills – into useful products, like ethanol (alcohol), fuel and chemicals to make everyday consumer goods, is calling for policy backing from governments.
Specifically the biotech company is calling for a step change in the way governments regulate sustainable fuels, to better embrace innovative new approaches and to be technology neutral.
“What’s key is whether the fuel qualifies for local incentives or even has a share in the market. In Europe, for example, fuel needs to qualify under the European Renewable Energy Directive. This impacts the price of the fuel and the payback to those investing in a facility,” Freya Burton, LanzaTech’s Chief Sustainability and People Officer, said.
“Today we’re seeing a step change globally, both in inclusion of fuels made from ‘recycled carbon’ and in tax credits that support carbon utilization technologies. These types of policy changes will significantly help the business and the sector as a whole.”
In addition, effective policy would also look holistically at the sustainability profile of the fuel or product and have a carbon price that incorporates the true cost of externalities, Burton said.
UPS calls for smart climate policies
The world’s largest logistics provider, UPS, is committed to drastically cut the emissions footprint of its fleets and is experimenting with alternative fuels through its ‘rolling laboratory’ and involvement with initiatives such as below50*.
In order to accelerate the shift toward zero-carbon transport and the many environmental and health benefits it will bring, UPS is calling for smart climate policies to support the transition, and in particular to help unleash the innovation in new technologies needed for a full transition. As with many new technologies, the innovation stage is more expensive, but necessary to find the options for fully decarbonizing logistics and transport, and will have benefits in the long run.
“Low-carbon solutions – whether it’s low-carbon fuels, advanced technologies – come at a cost that is more than business as usual. Really to make that scalable and to make that feasible for businesses like UPS, there has to be policies in place that will help incentivise those types of technologies,” said Patrick Browne, Director of Global Sustainability at UPS.
Browne also highlighted the need for climate policies to be technology neutral, in order to focused on the overall objectives of combating climate change.
“There’s not one fuel, one technology around the world that’s going to be able to solve all of the transportation sector,” he said.
RE100 is led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP
EV100 is led by The Climate Group
below50 is led by The World Business Council for Sustainable Development