UN: Businesses initiatives can save 630m tonnes of CO2

Ambitious climate action from the world's largest corporations could save 630m tonnes of CO2e in 2020, according to new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Climate Commitments of Subnational Actors and Business analysed the emissions-reduction potential of corporate-supported initiatives such as RE100 or CDP’s Supply Chain.

Even though less than a quarter of the world’s biggest companies are signed up to these initiatives, they are still expected to save 630m tonnes of CO2e in 2020.

“The corporate sector plays a crucial role in the fight against climate change,” said the report. “The top 1,000 largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting companies are responsible for the annual emission of 10bn tonnes of CO2e, or about 20% of the world’s annual GHG emissions.”

The report added that the growing influence of corporate initiatives provided plenty of reason for optimism.

The RE100 initiative highlighted by UNEP for example, was only established at the end of 2014, but has seen a number of high profile signatories in recent months, including Ikea, Unilever, BT, Marks and Spencer and most recently, Autodesk.

 Graph: How many companies are signed up to global green initiatives:

City impact 

The UNEP report also highlighted the emissions-saving potential of other ‘non-state actors’, such as cities, which are responsible for 75% of global emissions.

City-led initiatives such as the Covenant of Mayors reportedly have the potential to eliminate more than 1bn tonnes of CO2e in 2020

UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said that government action alone would not be enough to limit global warming to 2C.

He added: “Initiatives by cities, businesses and industrial sectors to cut emissions can contribute and support national emission commitments, bringing significant savings of CO2 equivalent.

“Government pledges are currently expected to deliver an impact of between 5 and 7bn tonnes of CO2e by 2020, highlighting the significance of the estimated emissions reductions from non-state actors.”

A recent investigation led by Nicholas Stern found that the pledges made by major international emitters ahead of the Paris UN conference are not strong enough to limit global warming to 2C.

Brad Allen

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