Global warming and climate change have accelerated in the last decade. When the Paris Agreement committed to keeping the global warming below 2°C, it was in fact a commitment to drastically reduce carbon emissions and move toward a carbon neutral world by the end of this century.
While the need for climate action is well acknowledged in the corporate world, purposeful climate action has been lacking in the industry at large. For Indian corporates, the 2°C regime may mean more pressure to cut emissions because India is a big emitter and our emissions are growing while global emissions are showing signs of peaking.
So where do you start if your company wants to undertake climate action?
The first thing to do is to take a complete inventory of your carbon emissions. This is called carbon accounting or carbon foot-printing. This will tell you where, how, and how much emissions result from your operations. This will also give you insights into the types of emission mitigation that may work for various sources of emissions.
With the complete emissions inventory in hand, you are now ready to undertake climate action and measure the emissions reduction achieved. For most businesses, almost all of their carbon emissions come from the use of fossil fuel, either directly or indirectly. Corporates can drive emission reduction by targeting emissions by their sources.
Renewable energy is zero-emission-energy. Therefore the use of renewable sources of energy is the easiest emission reduction lever available to corporates. Renewable energy is the world’s most powerful weapon in fighting climate change. One MWh of renewable power in India can avoid over 800 kg of CO2 emissions.
Solar PV and wind power are the two most common technologies in the renewable sector globally. In India, we also have biomass power, run-of-the-river hydro-electric power, and waste-to-power that qualify as renewable power. With solar and wind power costs reaching affordable levels, corporates now have the opportunity to procure renewable power under the open access scheme. Solar PV rooftop installations is another opportunity available to most.
Businesses that use fuel for on-site heat and/or power generation and other purposes can consider switching to fuels with lower carbon emission levels. This could include switching to bio-fuel, LNG, or blends of petroleum fuels with bio-ethanol in place of coal or diesel. Bio-fuel is a renewable fuel and has little or no emissions.
Switching from coal to diesel or LNG will result in approximately 400 kg and 760 kg, respectively, of CO2 emission reduction for every ton of coal replaced.
Avoided energy consumption translates to avoided carbon emissions. Therefore energy efficiency is a universal lever to reduce emissions. Opportunity to reduce energy consumption exists in all instances of energy use. In India, where energy use efficiencies are very low and energy wastage is very high, this is an omnipresent opportunity. One MWh of avoided energy consumption can take out over 800 kg of CO2 from your emissions.
Built environment is responsible for a significant portion of the global carbon emissions. Businesses can reduce carbon emissions by operating from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified green buildings. Energy performance is the most significant component in the LEED certification program. A LEED platinum (the highest level) certified building can save up to 60% energy compared to a baseline building.
Waste management offers a significant opportunity to reduce emissions and save costs. Reuse and recycle avoids emissions associated with the processing of materials and manufacturing of new products. Organic wastes can be processed to generate biogas and the biogas can replace LPG for cooking and heating. Biogas from wastes is a form of renewable energy and has no emissions, while LPG has carbon emissions.
Electric and LNG vehicles
Both the electric and LNG vehicles have significantly lower carbon emissions than diesel or petrol vehicles. Many companies in India operate their own or third-party bus fleet for employees. There is an opportunity to replace them with LNG buses. When it comes to four wheelers, companies could: 1) buy electric cars, 2) incentivize electric car purchase by employees when companies finance such purchases, 3) promote purchase electric cars by employees by providing priority parking and free charging stations, and 4) offer electric vehicles through third-party providers for business travel.
Public transport and car pooling
Both public transport and carpooling work on the same principle – shared common emissions leading to lower per-capita emission.
Video conferencing to avoid air travel
In today’s globalized economy, people travel frequently to conduct business. By installing video conferencing facilities, a significant portion of such travel can be avoided. Avoided travel is equivalent to avoided emissions. A typical short-haul domestic and long-haul international round-trip air travel can avoid anywhere from 100 kg CO2 to over 1000 kg CO2 emissions respectively.
Carbon emission from transporting supplies, raw materials, and finished goods is directly proportional to the distance. Attempts to reduce emissions from transport has led to a global movement toward procuring local and making local.
Companies may face challenges or limitations in reducing carbon emissions internally for various reasons. In such cases, carbon offsetting is an effective way to reduce net emissions. Carbon offsets are emission reductions achieved outside the company through projects specifically designed to reduce emissions. Afforestation is an example of a carbon offset project. Fuel and energy, directly or indirectly, are the targets of emission reduction programs. Therefore, most of such programs have a return on the investment. Investing in emission reduction, therefore, could be a smart choice that will help the world fight climate change and get your company future-ready.