Living beyond the moment: Why science-based targets and coalitions are the key to unlock climate action urgency

If we are to tackle the biggest threat our planet faces it's not just governments that have to act, its companies too. That much was evident from the Paris Agreement of last year - an historic moment, commanding responsibility from us all. But we can't continue to live in 'the Paris moment', we need to increase ambition, urgently.

Living beyond the moment: Why science-based targets and coalitions are the key to unlock climate action urgency

The current level of national intended commitments are out of sync with what the science tells us will keep global temperature rises “well below 2C”. 

At BT, we set a challenge as to what measures would we, as a company, need to put in place to do our fair share in limiting temperature increases to 1.5C?

Our commitment to tackling climate change is not new. In 2008, BT set a science based target to reduce our operational worldwide carbon emissions intensity by 80% by 2020, when compared with levels 20 years ago. Last year we met that target. This year is the time to aim higher.

Working with the Carbon Trust, we are exploring what a 1.5C science based target could mean for BT.   

A science-based target is a carbon emissions reduction target which is consistent with the latest scientific consensus on global targets for emissions that will limit global temperature increase to 2C or 1.5C compared with pre-industrial levels. This approach can be used to allocate a “fair share” of the required global emissions reductions at a country and/or organisational level.

Going it alone is not an option. We may be one of the first businesses looking at the 1.5C scenario. But if we’re the last, we will have failed.

There is a rich history of collaboration on climate action, and we believe the time is now for companies and countries to start thinking about a 1.5C world, and what the implications of it could be. Like any multi-national company, this means another step change in not only how we think, but also how we put these thoughts into action. 

To conform to a 1.5C pathway, we need to further reduce our carbon intensity (tonnes of CO2 emissions per £m value added). We’ve introduced such step change innovations before – for example through extending our commitment to renewable energy with an ambition to #go100percent worldwide by 2020, taking carbon out of our networks, data centres and buildings, scaling our Better Future Supplier Forum to help our suppliers’ suppliers with an online sustainability assessor. Like these innovations, we know our 1.5° thinking will be based on real science, and forward thinking collaboration.

The final week of COP22 discussion in Marrakech have been a decisive moment for how we and others establish plans for meeting our climate change commitments. Now is a key opportunity to strengthen partnerships that result in a low carbon future. Now is the time to seize the initiative, aim higher and lead by example.  Let’s think 1.5C.

Gabrielle Ginér is head of sustainable business policy at BT.

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