Climate change risk: How can businesses curb global warming?
The world must take ‘unprecedented’ action to limit the devastating impact of global warming. That’s the urgent warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest UN-backed report.
The report, which draws on more than 6,000 research papers, explains the dire consequences of failing to cap global warming temperature rises at 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial levels.
According to the IPPC, this will require a major transition to renewable power generation, together with a cleaner, greener future for industry, transport and buildings. Individuals can also play their part by eating less meat, which is a more carbon intensive method of producing food.
Currently, the IPPC says that the world is already 1 deg C warmer than pre-industrial levels and is on course to breach the 1.5 deg C threshold by as early as 2030. To prevent this, countries would need to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050, as well as reducing other greenhouse gases, such as methane. There will also be a need to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such as planting more forests, and implementing carbon capture and storage solutions.
Future power requirements would have to be met by further shrinking dependency on coal and gas and ensuring that by 2050 70 to 85% of electricity is sourced from renewables.
The difference that 0.5 deg C makes
The report firmly squashes previous assumptions that 2 deg C is an acceptable threshold to curb the biggest dangers of climate change. Scientists have demonstrated the likely impacts of rising from 1.5 deg C to 2 deg C. This includes:
• More heatwaves and extreme rainstorms • More water shortages and droughts • A further 10-15% decline in staple food crop yields and nutritional value • The loss of virtually all the world’s coral reefs (compared to a (still worrying) 70-90% decline with 1.5 deg C warming • 10cm higher sea level by the end of the century • An ice-free arctic during summer at least once a decade, rather than once a century.
How is the UK responding to the Climate Change challenge?
The UK government is already demonstrating global leadership in sustainability by its robust response to the Paris Agreement on climate change. This includes legally binding targets to achieve a 57% cut in CO2 emissions by 2030, and at least an 80% reduction by 2050. This is paving the way toward the possibility of a net-zero emissions target, which the government is currently discussing with the Committee on Climate Change.
There is a predicted shortfall in achieving these UK targets, so businesses (who contribute around 25% of emissions) have a duty to redouble their efforts on energy and carbon management.
The government has issued a challenge to businesses to boost their energy productivity by at least 20% by 2030. Proposed new Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting Regulations (SECR) will also encourage sustainability. SECR will force large companies to report on carbon emissions, energy use and energy efficiency actions through their company accounts.
What can businesses do to reduce carbon emissions?
There’s no doubt that decarbonisation must accelerate. Businesses can play their part and one of the simplest and most effective methods is to focus on energy efficiency. The greenest and cheapest unit of energy is, of course, the one that’s not used, so why aren’t more organisations thinking energy efficiency first?
Attractions of energy efficiency
Some may have looked at energy efficiency measures in the past and decided that the payback on investment wasn’t fast enough. But the advancement and shrinking cost of energy saving technologies - combined with the urgent need to cut CO2 emissions - means it’s time to take another urgent look.
The economic case may also look more attractive when you factor in energy purchasing costs. Sharply rising third-party energy charges, combined with extremely volatile and rising wholesale energy costs, make it even more important to reduce energy consumption.
Organisations can typically save up to 20% on their energy bills by adopting low and zero cost energy efficiency measures.