Transformational decarbonization targets – how to achieve them
By Gabrielle Giner, Head of Environmental Sustainability, BT
With each passing week, the stark environmental challenges the world faces are becoming more apparent. Encouragingly, and through the leading work of, for example, the UK Government, who recently set a net-zero 2050 target, we are seeing greater momentum around climate action.
At BT, we have long recognised the importance of setting ambitious carbon emissions targets and the critical role they have in focusing an organisation. It’s part of the reason we were able to beat our 2020 target to reduce the carbon emissions intensity of our business by 80% from 1996/97 levels, four years ahead of schedule. That encouraged us to be even more ambitious, leading us to setting a science-based target in line with a 1.5 degree trajectory in September 2017. This target will see an 87% reduction in our carbon emissions intensity by 2030.
By setting this target and our more recent net-zero by 2045 target, we are sending important signals internally to transform our business, but also externally to accelerate market change for innovation and increased supply for low carbon alternatives.
We are focusing on three main areas – completing our switch to 100% renewable electricity, decarbonizing our fleet and decarbonizing the heating of our buildings.
100% of the electricity we purchase directly in the UK comes from renewable sources, but we haven’t been able to do so in some other countries. We need policies that support the generation of renewables and therefore send clear demand signals for renewable electricity supply. We have one of the largest commercial fleets in the UK and we won’t be able to decarbonize that on our own.
One of the things we have realized is that climate action is not just the right thing to do – it makes business sense too. Through our energy efficiency programme, we have saved nearly £300m over the last decade.
We need to make sure that the transformation to the low carbon economy happens as quickly as possible and there is no doubt that the information and communications (ICT) sector can play a leading role. ICT runs through every part of our economy, creating growth and efficiency for those that harness it.
We’re working with Cisco to cut customers’ emissions by moving communications network hardware into the cloud. Our software defined wide area network reduces the number of servers and devices companies need to manage their network. This means less energy used for power and cooling, and engineers don’t need to travel to sites to maintain them.
Through the Internet of Things (IoT), we are exploring ways customers can take advantage of real-time data to save energy, emissions, and fuel. This year, we launched an IoT-enabled vehicle monitoring system, called AutoMate. The system collects fuel economy and carbon footprint data so customers can spot ways to reduce the environmental impact of their fleet.
These are just a few examples of the power of ICT. We see big potential for our products and services to save our customers’ energy, fuel, materials and emissions.
In the last year alone, our carbon-saving products and services helped customers save 11.7 million tonnes of CO2e (or the emissions of 3 million UK households) - equivalent to 2.6 times our end-to-end emissions. Finally, let’s not forget that as we join Climate Week NYC 2019, collaboration is key. The power of coalitions is critical to delivering a low carbon future. Collective climate action has helped us make progress faster, scale ambition and inspire others. Businesses coming together through organizations like the Climate Group (a non-profit organization accelerating climate action), We Mean Business, CDP and WBCSD creates a snowball effect and shows what is possible; inspiring others to act.
Look at how the renewable energy market has changed since the launch of RE100, an initiative led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP. Or how the science based targets initiative has taken off – over 600 companies now committed to science based targets.
BT, alongside other world-leading businesses, is keen to empower and accelerate climate action worldwide. The ICT sector has the power to catalyze carbon reduction throughout all sectors of the economy. Climate action makes sense not just for the planet, but for business, driving greater innovation and efficiency. We hope more are inspired to set their own net zero targets.
As a member of RE100 and EV100, we remain optimistic to be progressing towards our internal climate action goals whilst inspiring others to follow suit. Let’s have a successful and inspiring Climate Week NYC 2019.