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Blog June 2021

Towards net zero: how are we doing?

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Lara van Rijswijk Head of Marketing EMEA

Net zero

We’re at a turning point in the history of the planet. It’s no longer enough to reduce carbon dioxide. We have to become net zero carbon.

The 195 countries that signed the Paris Agreement have pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050. This shouldn’t be confused with net zero. Carbon neutral is carbon offsetting. This refers to the balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon via carbon sinks. Carbon sinks are systems such as forests and oceans.

Net zero means emitting no carbon whatsoever, but some agencies use the terms interchangeably or else refer to net zero as the result of carbon offsetting. Carbon is produced, but removed, so to speak. For our purposes, we will use this definition of net zero, as not all industries, such as agriculture, can ever achieve net zero in the strictest sense.

Reaching the Paris Agreement 10 years early

The Climate Pledge is a joint initiative between Amazon and Global Optimism, an enterprise that works to galvanise action on climate change. Their goal is that we all reach net zero by 2040. They’re not so much interested in working with policy makers, but instead they want companies to leverage their size and ability to scale to take immediate action.

The urgency is now

It’s critical that we keep the global temperature increase below 1.5°C as compared to pre-industrial levels. Otherwise, we’ll experience even greater and more frequent extreme events impacting resources, ecosystems, food security, biodiversity and more. Coral reefs will decline by a further 70-90%.

At a 2°C increase in temperatures, the coral reefs, which protect coastlines from erosion and absorb carbon dioxide, will disappear completely. Half a billion people rely on this underwater ecosystem for food and income. Their loss would incur irreversible damage to the planet and all life.

The Climate Pledge follows three principles:

  1. Measure and report greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis.
  2. Implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business changes and innovations, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, material reductions and other carbon emission elimination strategies.
  3. Neutralize any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially beneficial offsets to achieve net zero annual carbon emissions by 2040.

Based on the Paris Agreement, the pledge focuses on halving global emissions this decade, and the actions needed to ensure we stay below the 1.5°C threshold. We already mentioned that not all industries are capable of obtaining net zero, so their carbon emissions will have to be offset.

The equivalent amount will have to be taken out of the atmosphere, called “negative emissions”. Net zero is the goal for the overall economy, rather than for any single industry.

Business Ambition for 1.5°C

Similar to the Climate Pledge, the Business Ambition for 1.5°C is a campaign led by the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) in partnership with a coalition of UN agencies. They’re calling for businesses to limit global temperature rise by committing to set verifiable science-based targets.

The aim is to achieve a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. More than 1,000 companies have set targets for reducing emissions through the SBTi, including 20 businesses in the transportation sector. Businesses joining the campaign commit to establishing their science-based target. As of this writing, 338 companies are transitioning the economy through decarbonizing their own operations, having cut their emissions by 25% since 2015.

Science-based targets

See the infographic below. When companies set targets, they initially focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions. This is because generally, they have the ability to directly influence these emissions.  Scope 3 emissions are often greater and more ambitious, as it includes companies’ supply chains.

Industry first: Lafarge-Holcim

Lafarge-Holcim joined the Business Ambition for 1.5°C initiative as the first global building materials company with a 2030 SBTi-verified plan. One of the materials they manufacture is cement. Given that the production of cement generates 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions, the company signals hope to the rest of the world. They highlight that shifting to a net-zero business isn’t just about disruption but creating a completely new paradigm.

This is exciting to say the least. Lafarge-Holcim also see innovations such as artificial intelligence as a tool to bridge the gap between the goal of 1.5°C and sustainable solutions.

Some of their commitments include:

Furthermore, their 2050 ambition targets reduction of scope 1 emissions1  and carbon-neutrality in scope 2 emissions2 as well as reducing scope 3 emissions by 50%. One of the main sources of Lafarge-Holcim’s scope 3 emission is transportation and they have identified opportunities for improvement in the following areas:

What about AMCS?

Scope 3 emissions appear to include relevant target groups for AMCS. These emissions are defined as the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting company, but that the company indirectly impacts in its value chain (which is why they can also be referred to as value-chain emissions). These are matters we’re currently examining in an effort to contribute to the fight for a cleaner planet.

We all need to take action. No one can do it alone. But as we’re already seeing with some companies, it’s possible. Technologies, such as route optimisation, can help waste and recycling management companies lower their CO2 emissions. AMCS Intelligent Optimisation (transport optimisation and route planning) users report reducing their emissions by up to 30%, so these technologies can have a major impact on your carbon footprint.

[1] All direct emissions from the activities of an organization or under their control

[2] Indirect emissions from electricity purchased and used by an organization

If you’re interested in ways that we can help you reduce your emissions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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