As COP23 begins in Bonn this week, BT's Gabrielle Ginér explains why BT, Carlsberg Group and Tesco have become the first companies in the world to commit to science-based targets compatible with keeping global temperature rises to 1.5C

After the Paris agreement was signed we asked ourselves, how can a company like BT play its part in delivering on the ambition to limit global warming to 1.5C? Fortunately, after a lot of hard work with the Carbon Trust’s team, we now have an answer that aligns our future business plans with the best available climate change science.

We are proud that BT has become one of the first companies globally, along with Carlsberg Group and Tesco, to have committed to a higher ambition science-based target. At BT our goal is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 87% by 2030 from a 2016/17 baseline, a level which is in line with what is required to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C.

We want to be part of a vanguard of companies driving forward the 1.5C agenda.  Just last week we were joined by the government of New York City, which committed to its own 1.5C plan.

 We know that being ambitious can pay off. We reached our previous carbon reduction target four years early – in 2008 we thought we could achieve an 80% reduction of our carbon emissions intensity by 2020; we actually managed this by 2016. Meeting that target gave us the confidence to aim higher and lead the way, so this new target is part of our commitment to be a truly sustainable business.

Gabrielle Ginér, Environmental Sustainability, BT

Reducing our end-to-end carbon footprint has been valuable for the business, helping to deliver £221m of energy savings since 2009/10.

We are also well on our way towards purchasing 100% renewable electricity worldwide by 2020, where markets allow, without adding significant costs.

Despite all our progress to date, reaching our ambition will require changes in many areas. In the coming years we will need to adopt low carbon vehicles across our fleet of vans, cars and repair trucks, reduce the carbon intensity of our buildings, and work with our suppliers to reduce carbon emissions associated with our supply chain.

We will also focus on the impact we can have in the wider economy. We know that ICT sector products and services have a huge role to play in helping to tackle climate change and in creating a low carbon society.

In 2016-17 we estimate that our products and services enabled our customers to avoid 10 million tonnes of carbon – up 32% from the previous year. These products and services that can help reduce carbon emissions represented £5.3bn in revenue, 22% of BT’s total revenue. And we will continue to innovate in order to help our customers use resources even more efficiently and further reduce their carbon emissions.

The only way we can achieve a 1.5°C world is through collaboration and collective effort. There are really positive signs that suggest that the shift to a low carbon society is becoming unstoppable, but we need to make sure that it also happens as quickly as possible. Businesses are quickly learning how to create economic value and greater prosperity without harming the planet.

We would love to share what we have done to help other companies accelerate their efforts. We can all set the bar higher to help deliver on the Paris Agreement by aiming for 1.5°C.

A solar installation at BT, which has commited to 100% renewable energy worldwide (credit: Rexel)

The Carbon Trust last month launched a new report at the London Stock Exchange titled Aim Higher: How can business help achieve the 1.5C ambition in the Paris Agreement?  It is the result of a series of events the Carbon Trust and BT hosted for corporates and other stakeholders, and gives 10 key steps a business can take today to put itself onto a pathway compatible with 1.5°C.

1 Understand your carbon footprint Identify hotspots of emissions across the full value chain and identify opportunities for improved efficiency and cost saving.

2 Develop a roadmap to zero emissions Set out the practical steps required to deliver core products or services in a zero-carbon future.

3 Set science-based targets Use the best available climate science to align emissions reductions goals with the requirements of a 1.5°C pathway.

4 Invest in energy efficiency Implement cost-effective opportunities to improve the efficiency of your buildings, fleet and industrial processes.

5 Switch to zero carbon electricity Invest in on-site renewable electricity generation and switching to electricity tariffs backed up by guarantees of origin.

6 Move towards zero emissions transportation Understand options for vehicles powered by non-fossil fuel sources, such as batteries, hydrogen and biofuels.

7 Decarbonise heating and cooling Replace existing fossil fuel sources of heating and cooling with more efficient or cleaner alternatives.

8 Take action in the supply chain Drive supplier emissions reductions, improving efficiency and performance, at the same time as exploring transformational changes.

9 Use an internal carbon price Implementing an internal carbon price can mitigate transition risks and improve decision making around investments.

10 Introduce options for negative emissions Explore the long-term potential to economically include negative emissions within a business model or supply chain.

Gabrielle Ginér is head of sustainable business policy at BT. 

Main image credit: Shun Kambe
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