SBTs: how can big data help those committed to change?
2015 saw 195 governments commit to the Paris Agreement to prevent dangerous climate changes, with targets to limit increased global temperatures to below 2oC by the next century (2100). Today, Science Based Targets (SBT) – a collaborative initiative between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and one of the We Mean Business Coalition commitments – aim to provide clear and ambitious objectives, approve and assess company targets, promote best practice, showcase companies involved, and offer guidance and resources to those in the initiative and those wanting to join.
To date, 611 companies have committed to SBT’s call to action against climate change. The initiative states that many have “the skills, expertise and ingenuity to make this a reality – but need ambitious emissions reduction targets that ensure the transformational action they take is aligned with current climate science.”
Why set science based targets?
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have continued to increase dramatically since the Industrial Revolution, resulting in the world heading towards a global temperature change of +4-6oC by 2100. To avoid floods, droughts, rising sea levels and extreme weather, the private and public sectors need to work towards reducing their emissions and keep this increase below 2oC.
From a business growth perspective, corporations have the potential to benefit from increased innovation via new technologies and operational practices, increased regulatory clarity to ensure it stays ahead of future policies, and ultimately strengthening their credibility.
Who has committed to the initiative?
SBT aims to be standard business practice by 2020, playing a major role in reducing GHG emissions. Those already committed to the initiative include: Molson Coors, Cambridge University, EDP (Energias de Portugal), NRG Energy and Origin Energy.
Molson Coors – joined August 2019
Molson Coors has committed to reduce its Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (indirect – purchased energy) GHG emissions by 50%, reduce carbon emissions in relation to packaging by 26% and use 100% recyclable packaging by 2025. The company has also set smaller short-term targets of removing plastic film wraps from multi-packs by March 2020 and plastic rings by March 2021.
In order to achieve this, the company is set to create a new plastic and packaging strategy focusing on lifecycle emissions and circular economy principles as well as collaborating with governments, local authorities and industries to achieve the best results.
“As a global brewer with a strong family heritage, we have always taken seriously our responsibility to brew a more sustainable future,” says Molson Coors’ Chief Executive, Mark Hunter.
Cambridge University – joined July 2019
By 2030, Cambridge University – the first university to set science based targets – has committed to reduce its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 75%, and its Scope 2 to net zero emissions by 2048, across the entire operational estate.
To achieve this, it is set to carry out a feasibility study for an on-site solar farm, complete assessments to determine the best ways to reduce the amount of gas used and explore how to provide better data to develop tailored solutions.
In addition, over the next three years the university will aim to develop a Scope 3 (indirect – any factors not included in Scope 2) strategy to reduce business travel, supply chain and student travel emissions.
“As a world-leading university, we need to not only take responsibility for our own carbon emissions, but also to demonstrate to others what is achievable,” says the University of Cambridge’s Director of Information Services, Ian Leslie.
EDP (Energias de Portugal) – joined February 2017
EDP is the largest generator, distributer and supplier of electricity in Portugal, with its subsidiary – EDP Renewables – being one of the largest wind power operators worldwide.
By 2030, EDP has committed to reducing its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 55%, reduce its Scope 3 by 25% and reduce its CO2e by 75%.
To achieve this, EDP will look to increase its renewable portfolio at a rate of at least 700MW per year until 2020, have 90% of its customers using smart meters by 2030 and invest in innovative technology, specifically for clean energy, smart distribution and energy efficiency.
“The electricity sector is changing rapidly and faces a huge challenge in terms of decarbonisation. We believe that electrification and the acceleration of renewable deployment will play a crucial role in the shift to a low-carbon economy,” says Deputy Director of Climate and Environment from the Corporate Sustainability Office, Sara Goulartt.
NRG Energy – joined December 2015
NRG Energy is a large American energy company that provides 50,000MW of power generation capacity. Since 2009, the company has been moving away from coal plants and investing in clean energy, such as: wind power, photovoltaic plants, and solar thermal energy, as well as repowering coal plants with lower carbon natural gas.
NRG Energy has committed to a 50% reduction of absolute emissions by 2030 and 90% by 2050.
To do this, the company is looking to harness its wealth of quality data for tailored insights, take advantages of its naturally aging coal plants by transforming them into more sustainable options, and invest in environmental enhancements, repowering, new technology and energy saving tools alongside expanding use of renewables.
Origin Energy – joined March 2018
Origin Energy, an Australian company with a generation fleet of 7,000MW, operates across power generation, energy retailing, natural gas, exploration and production.
The company acknowledges its responsibility and opportunity – being a leading energy company in Australia – to deliver climate action. By 2032, it has committed to reduce its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 50% and its Scope 3 by 25%.
To achieve this, Origin Energy plans to exit coal fired power generation by 2032, take advantage of its naturally aging plants and use sustainable alternatives, significantly grow its renewables and utilise gas as a lower emission alternative in the medium term.
“We firmly believe decarbonising our business is not only the right thing to do by our stakeholders and the planet, it also presents opportunities to create value, and Origin is well positioned on this journey having prepared for a low carbon future for many years,” says Origin Energy CEO, Frank Calabria.
Could Big Data be used to combat climate change?
Utilising the expansive data held by the private and public sectors that identifies the amount of emissions produced, carbon levels in the world, key industry areas and the effect carbon is having on the planet – past and present – could be the answer to better understanding climate change and allowing companies to implement tailored initiatives to achieve science-based targets.
Big Data applications have the capacity to capture, collect and process fast paced and sizeable data. Coupled with predictive analytics, Big Data is vital for generating useful and real-time actionable insights as well as predicting any potential risks in the future.
2019 has seen innovative developments to combat climate change, such as California’s plans to launch its own satellite – announced by US Governor, Jerry Brown in September – to monitor, from space, the formation of pollution that causes climate change. The satellite will produce vast amounts of data on the sources of climate pollutants and will be shared publicly via the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “This ground breaking initiative will help governments, businesses and landowners pinpoint — and stop — destructive emissions with unprecedented precision, on a scale that’s never been done before,” says Brown.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere