COP23: Companies deliver further, faster climate action

Companies from all sectors and geographies have come together at COP23 in Bonn, Germany to demonstrate that business is taking further, faster climate action.

During the conference, Microsoft committed to cut annual emissions equivalent to the city of Rome, four companies joined EV100 and a further four companies announced the approval of their science-based targets. While Royal DSM and BMW made bold investments in renewable energy and the movement to power past coal gathered pace.  

To date over 630 companies around the world have made more than 1,000 strategic climate commitments via the We Mean Business coalition’s Take Action campaign. Many of these companies are not only delivering on their commitments, but stepping up their action on climate to help bring the Paris vision into reality.  

Microsoft steps up

Microsoft unveiled a bold pledge at COP23 to cut its operational carbon emissions by 75 percent by 2030, against a 2013 baseline. The US-based tech giant estimates this will help avoid more than 10 million metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030 annually.

“We’re going to do that through the continued implementation of our carbon neutral goal, we have a carbon fee that we charge each of our business units and the increased purchase of renewable energy,” Michelle Billig Patron, Director of Sustainability Policy at Microsoft, said at the conference.

“This is huge! To understand the magnitude of this, when we achieve our goal in 2030 we will have avoided about ten million metric tons of carbon per year and that’s equivalent to zeroing out the emissions of a large city equal to Detroit or Rome.”

Microsoft, which has global operations in more than 100 countries, is also a member of RE100 – led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP – and has been 100 percent carbon neutral since 2012.

EV rollout is accelerating

The accelerating electric vehicle (EV) rollout was on display at COP23. AEON Mall, Air New Zealand, Mercury and Royal HaskoningDHV were welcomed as new members, by the EV100 initiative, led by The Climate Group.

These forward-looking companies join the likes of Baidu, IKEA Group and LeasePlan in their commitment to accelerating the transition to EVs and making electric transport the new normal by 2030.

Meanwhile, LeasePlan – a global leader in fleet management – launched its electric vehicle pilot program for corporate companies, as part of its ambition to achieve net zero emissions from its total fleet by 2030.

The pilot program is designed to make it easier for the growing number of companies that want to make the switch to low-emission vehicles. It facilitates the implementation of charging infrastructure and where possible works with partners to supply 100% renewable energy.

The full pilot will be available in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the UK from December, with a further rollout planned for Italy, Spain and Sweden in the first quarter of 2018.

Science-based targets

Four companies joined the growing number of forward-looking businesses with science-based targets approved by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) so far during COP23.

Danone’s target to be carbon neutral by 2050 took a decisive step forward thanks to the approval of its target, which will help to ensure the global food company’s plans for carbon reduction meet the level of ambition needed to limit the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C.

“It’s a special day for us because we’re going to announce that Danone has had its science-based target validated,” Eric Soubeiran, Danone’s Global Nature and Climate Director, said at the summit.  

“It’s a key commitment for us to measure our progress versus our objective to be carbon neutral by 2050, that we announced in 2015 in the COP21 in Paris. For us, tackling the topic of carbon is about pursuing our agenda on the alimentation (food) revolution, which is connecting the consumers with what they eat and the way it is produced.”

Danone commits to reduce scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 30 percent by 2030, from a 2015 base year. Danone also commits to reduce scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions per ton of sold product 50% by 2030, from a 2015 base year.

Meanwhile, the Singtel Group announced during COP23 that it’s the first company in Asia (excluding Japan) to have its carbon reduction targets approved by the SBTi.

“We congratulate Singtel on being the first Asian company outside of Japan to have their industry-leading science-based targets approved. This validation by our team sends a powerful message to their industry peers and the business community in Asia and beyond. Setting science-based targets is a clear way of future-proofing growth in the transition to a low-carbon economy,” Mr Alexander Liedke, Manager of Sustainable Business & Markets at WWF and member of the SBTi said.

Also Japan’s FUJIFILM Holdings and Spain’s Telefónica now have approved science-based targets.

The SBTi is a collaboration between CDP, World Resources Institute, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature and the United Nations Global Compact.

Renewable revolution

The push to increase the share of renewable energy also gathered pace. Among the companies announcing new renewable capacity and contracts was Dutch multinational Royal DSM.

Royal DSM will now operate on 40% renewable electricity in the US thanks to a new wind power agreement announced at COP23 with NextEra Energy Resources. DSM is now positioned to outpace its global target of 50% purchased electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

And the BMW Group announced that as of 2020 all of its external power purchases will be from renewables sources worldwide.

This comes as the push to go Beyond Coal gathered momentum, with Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg calling on all nations to set a date for the phase out of coal use for electricity.

At the conference, the UK and Canada, along with more than 20 other jurisdictions, sent a powerful message to the market by launching the Alliance to Power Past Coal. The alliance encourages all jurisdictions to make a just transition to clean, affordable energy, which is essential to delivering the ambition of the Paris Agreement.

Meanwhile, insurance giant Zurich announced it would end coal investments as will stop offering insurance to companies that depend on coal for more than half of their turnover. And Norway has teamed with Unilever to deliver a US$400m climate resilience push.

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