Since the beginning of 2022, we have seen the publication of several worrying climate change reports. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) rang alarm bells in February with their impacts of climate change report followed swiftly in April by their climate change mitigation report. Again the science is clear, human activities have and continue to increase greenhouse gas emissions leading to global warming and the climate change we see worldwide and even here in Ireland.
The IPCC mitigation report offers further insight on our continued delay but pragmatically also provides mitigation pathways to turn the climate crisis around. We need to immediately peak our carbon emissions, make rapid and transformative emissions cuts, and hit global net-zero as soon as possible. The longer we procrastinate, the warmer our planet gets, the impacts of this postponement have been well documented in the recent World Meteorological Organizations (WMO) state of the global climate change report. Ireland unfortunately featured in this report with five extreme weather events recorded on our emerald isle in 2021.
Bringing this global outlook into perspective for Ireland a recent Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) Interim energy balance report paints a very similar picture. In 2021 energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 6.3%, faster than our energy use. This represents a significant overshoot if we are to achieve a 51% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 in line with Ireland’s Climate Action Plan. We are not on track and now more than ever we desperately need decisive and informed political leadership. We must propel renewable energy policy, development, and funding while simultaneously ending fossil fuel subsidies and redirect those into a just transition. Our targeted response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be replicated in our fight against the climate crisis, this time, for the health of our planet and all its inhabitants.
With the writing fading on the wall, what can businesses do in the here and now?
The first step is to accept that business as usual is no longer an option and that you too have an important role to play, we all do. For over 21 years Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI) has used its role to inspire and enable businesses to bring about a sustainable, low carbon economy and a more inclusive society where everyone thrives. Our low carbon pledge launched in 2018 was a direct response to the Paris Climate Agreement. It is the first dedicated pledge generated by Irish businesses to set industry standards on sustainability and reduce carbon usage. A key commitment and guarantee of credibility to the pledge is the requirement for signatories to set a science-based target with the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) by not later than 2024.
Companies that have set a science-based target are accelerating their emissions reductions
The Science Based Targets Initiative ( SBTi ) drives ambitious climate action in the private sector by enabling organisations to set science-based emissions reduction targets. In its recent 2021 annual progress report, SBTi demonstrates that the growing number of companies that have set a science-based target are accelerating their emissions reductions. A typical SBTi-approved company has reduced its annual scope 1 and 2 emissions at a linear rate of 8.8% since setting its targets, while 4.2% is the annual reduction required by the SBTi for a 1.5ºC trajectory alignment. SBTi companies are cutting emissions twice as fast as needed to align with 1.5°C.
The Net-zero standard is now the new compass for companies demonstrating their commitment to a more sustainable future. We see this in the companies taking action page on the SBTi website where many BITCI members are now featured.
Upcoming changes to the SBTi framwork
As we near COP27 in October SBTi will expand its climate alignment and certification framework from ambition (target-setting) to also include performance (target-delivery) through the development of a measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) framework. This eagerly anticipated and much-needed framework will provide a clear and standardised mechanism to assess, verify and enhance corporate accountability on progress towards science-based targets.
Reporting and credibility gap
Like the IPCC, WMO and SEAI the SBTi note that global emissions bounced back by the end of 2021 as the economy recovered from COVID-19 and reiterated that the world is not on track to halve emissions by 2030. There is however a reporting and credibility gap. In 2021, only 46% of companies with science-based targets (excluding SMEs) reported progress fully on all targets.
The Low Carbon Pledge closes these gaps through our annual survey and soon to be published 2022 Low Carbon Pledge progress report. This ongoing collective reporting demonstrates the transparency of the pledge and accountability taken annually by signatories committed to a low carbon future.
We would still urge Irish businesses to ensure they are publicly disclosing their annual individual emissions through CDP, annual reports, sustainability reports and their company’s website.
Low Carbon Pledge Annual progress report
BITCI focuses on the collective and now more than ever we need the collective to act as one in our fight against the climate crisis. The Low Carbon Pledge will continue to drive the ambition and support for signatories as we approach the 2030 milestone. We have all the scientific evidence; we know which path we must take and the solutions from renewables to nature, it is now time to act.
Our annual Low Carbon Pledge report developed by PwC will be published on our website on June 23rd. Almost 70 signatories will meet on this date to launch the report at the event hosted by PwC with key insights on our steady progress and overview of the work ahead.
BITCI will continue to work closely with all our stakeholders on driving the sustainability agenda forward.
We understand the specific challenges for businesses in Ireland, particularly around measuring scope 3 emissions, the benefits of being a Low Carbon Pledge signatory is access to the peer-to-peer learning within our network to face these challenges as one.
Find out more about the Low Carbon Pledge.
If you are interested in joining our network, please contact Lorraine O’Toole at firstname.lastname@example.org