The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is on the implications of warming of just 1.5C and also on the methods by which that might be realised. The minutiae of report are worth understanding, but there’s one exigent takeaway that affects people, businesses and industry of all sizes: we need to reduce carbon pollution as much as possible, as fast as possible.
The report’s findings spell out in stark terms the risks of inaction and must serve as a catalyst for change. The question ‘Do you not want to leave a safe, habitable earth for your children?’ has often been posed to climate change contrarians and has never been more pertinent. It is no longer acceptable to remain indifferent to the horrors that climate change could inflict on the planet our progeny must inherit.
What difference does half a degree actually make?
A huge difference!
The report puts it this way: “By 2100, global sea-level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all would be lost with 2°C.”
Looking at it a different way, keeping warming at 1.5°C means:
- 10 million fewer people lose their homes to rising seas
- 50% fewer people experience water scarcity worldwide
- A 50% reduction in species losing half their geographic range
- A 1 per century limit on sea-ice free Arctic summers.
What has to change if we are to keep the temperature rise below 1.5C?
Net global CO2 emissions will have to be reduced to zero by 2040, and other emissions such as methane, for example would need to be reduced from 2030. By 2050, 70 to 85 percent of electricity worldwide will need to be supplied by renewables. Investment in low-carbon and energy-efficient technologies will need to double. If the planet continues to warm at the current rate of 0.2℃ per decade, we will reach 1.5℃ of warming around 2040.
How can business trailblaze the creation of a carbon neutral planet?
The most salient fact of all in the report is that there is still a chance to achieve the best-case scenario rather than surrender to the worst. The problem is not insurmountable and acting as soon as possible will be hugely beneficial. The earlier we start, the more time we have to reach net zero emissions.
1. Measure your impact: The first thing businesses should be doing is measuring and reporting their carbon footprint. Once this has been achieved, targets can be set to help reduce it. If you don’t know how to measure and report your carbon we’ve created our Beginners Guide to Carbon Footprinting to help you get started.
2. Assign high- level and operational ownership: For any project to be successfully delivered someone has to be responsible for it. Lack of ownership is where the green agenda often fails before it’s even got started. Carbon footprinting should be supported by two main green champions – one should be a high-level executive (i.e. CEO, COO), who can inspire and demand company-wide commitment to the project, and the other should be someone at the operational level, who can project manage the data collection, liaise between various stakeholders and act as the main point of contact (i.e. someone from FM, accounting or CSR).
3. Include your supply chain: For the majority of organisations, indirect activates are likely to constitute the majority of carbon emissions. Drive supplier emissions reductions.
4. Embed carbon accounting in your monthly routine: Data collection does not have to be difficult, so long as you create a structured plan to carry out throughout the year ahead. Best practices include: For utilities data – take meter readings on the last day of each month and record on a spreadsheet the meter number, the date the reading was taken, the reading and the unit. For waste data – ask your waste company for a monthly report with the weight of general waste and recycling collected. Alternatively, record on a spreadsheet the size of central waste bins for general waste and for recycling and the dates they are being collected. For fleet fuel data – issue a fuel card to be used for each refill. For business travel data – ask your accounts department to categorise monthly travel based on mode of travel (air, rail, hired vehicle) and to calculate distance travelled for each claim.
5. Transition to zero- carbon electricity: Invest in renewable energy generation. As prices come down, and technology improves, it’s becoming ever more cost effective to incorporate higher levels of renewable energy into the mix. With the UK’s commitment to an 80% reduction in carbon by 2050, renewables will play a key role.
6. Develop a plan to achieve zero-emissions: Identify the practical steps required to deliver your key products or services with a neutral carbon footprint.