When it comes to addressing the impact of dangerous climate change, we know that a binary approach doesn’t work. The Kyoto Protocol era (1997-2012) taught us this lesson: developed vs developing countries, mitigation vs adaptation, perpetrator vs victim, etc. Although progress was made, it was not quick enough, inclusive enough or innovative enough to meet the huge global challenges we face as a result of manmade climate change.
In contrast, the Paris Agreement is more about an ‘and’ mentality than an ‘or’ one. An era where you don’t have to choose between reducing your own emissions or compensating for them, but where you can do both.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an example of this type of ‘and’ approach. There are connected themes that are the backbone of the goals, and climate change features in 15 of the 17.
When it comes to applying an ‘and’ mentality to your business, it’s crucial to think about how you will address all of your impacts, not just in terms of managing the risks posed to your business model by climate change, but also taking up the opportunities presented by an ‘and’ mentality.
Renewables are on the rise
Businesses are increasingly looking at how to make their electricity supply 100% renewable, and therefore climate neutral.
There are multiple drivers for this kind of approach – energy security, reducing costs, ensuring that the emissions within the business' direct control are managed effectively.
This is fairly straightforward. You enter into a contract to purchase renewable electricity from a power supplier and they evidence their product through renewable energy certificates (RECs) or guarantees of origin (GOs, REGOs). We recently provided assurance that npower's renewable energy product was compliant with the Good Quality Criteria of the GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance.
Another option that helps facilitate growth in the renewables market and is often more cost effective is to buy electricity as usual and then source certificates (RECs, GOs, REGOs) from the open market. The certificates represent a megawatt hour of renewable electricity generated. Certificates can be traced back to specific generation technologies and locations and their removal from the market stimulates the mechanisms needed for future renewable infrastructure growth.
This is only part of the story and if you are taking an ‘and’ mentality, you need to think about the other emissions that your company produces and how you will address these.
Carbon offsetting projects are ‘and’ projects
Carbon offsetting is a tool that companies use to prove their climate neutral status. Buying carbon credits from projects delivering emission reductions in places where it is cheaper to do so is a way of outsourcing your internal emission reductions in a cost-effective manner.
For lots of companies, it’s also the added value that these projects bring to the communities in which they are based that actually drive decisions to offset emissions.
For example, if the project you support not only reduces carbon emissions but also helps manage the dangerous health impacts of cooking on open fires inside the home, there is an additional reason to choose this route. It may be relevant for your company to consider supporting tree planting projects in areas where it has had an historical impact in agriculture. Or perhaps your company wants to focus on supporting renewable energy projects in fledgling markets where there would otherwise be a reliance on fossil fuels. Projects that have an ‘and’ mentality often support the aims of the SDGs and may in some cases directly contribute towards meeting their aims.
Carbon offsetting is inherently an ‘and’ approach. It is the final step towards carbon neutrality and the only way to ensure that your company is climate neutral.