When EU companies take action to combat climate change, everyone benefits
Recently, the European Council President issued a strong statement of purpose. “We are in a climate emergency,” he said. “I have a clear goal: to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent on the planet by 2050.”
This goal is critical, given recent extreme temperatures and precipitation. A crucial element is to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Scientists agree that greenhouse gas emissions caused by fossil fuel use can have harmful effects. Among these are:
Extreme weather events.
A rise in sea levels.
Air and water pollution.
In recognition of this, Al Gore, the founder of the Climate Reality Project, has said, “We are facing a global climate crisis. It is deepening. We are entering a period of consequences.”
Earlier this year, the European Union introduced an ambitious plan to move away from fossil fuel use in the coming decade. Introducing these sweeping changes, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Our current fossil fuel economy has reached its limit.”
The proposals align with the EU’s 2030 climate ambition: to cut emissions by at least 55% by 2030. They include vehicle emission standards, energy taxation, infrastructure for alternative fuels, and much more.
Enterprises need to play a more significant role if those goals are to be achieved. They should take the initiative to create an action plan to move away from fossil fuels and create a renewable energy framework.
The role of enterprises in greenhouse gas emissions
Companies contribute to greenhouse gas emissions primarily by burning fossil fuels for energy. In addition, there are chemical reactions caused by producing goods from raw materials.
Recent statistics reveal that though the industrial sector accounts for 25% of the GDP of the European Union, it is responsible for more than 50% of emissions. These companies engage in activities such as:
Mining and quarrying.
Electricity, gas, and water supply.
The Emissions Trading Scheme is the main EU instrument for reducing industrial emissions. It works on the cap and trade system. Emissions are monitored and reported periodically. Accordingly, permits and allowances are granted to the companies.
Other sectors such as transport, infrastructure, agriculture, and food also have significant roles. Taken together, the United Nations Environment Program estimates that it is possible to cut 30 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year.
The digital domain, too, can make a significant contribution to sustainability. Digital device production, use, and data transfer cause harmful CO₂ emissions. Some studies indicate that this ranges from 2.3 to 3.7% of global CO₂ emissions. That is equivalent to the emissions of the entire aviation industry.
Private bodies across sectors should take independent steps to address these issues. They must reduce reliance on fossil fuels, apart from partnering with the government and other authorities.
How enterprises can take independent climate action
There are several ways that companies in the EU can change policies that affect the climate. Such independent measures will go a long way in reducing fossil fuel dependence. Here are some of them:
Sustainable suppliers: Companies can check environmental practices before working with new suppliers. They could help them with green certifications based on EU standards. The same can be done for existing suppliers.
Employee and stakeholder awareness: Companies can create an environmental consciousness and take steps to promote it among employees and stakeholders. For example, carpooling can be encouraged, wasteful printing and other practices kept to a minimum, and other eco-friendly measures recommended. In addition, sustainable practices can be adopted for air-conditioning and equipment replacement.
Digital best practices: Businesses can reduce their digital carbon footprint in many ways. Online assets can be decluttered and streamlined. Faster transmission speeds and server optimization are other measures. In addition, the environmental impact of data centers can be monitored for optimal usage. Data centers account for about 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions. This figure can be reduced.
Measure value-chain emissions: Value-chain emissions are caused by a company’s purchased goods and services, transportation, and waste. They are a form of indirect emission and significantly impact the climate. However, if these are tracked and calculated, businesses can take steps to reduce them to reach a net-zero destination.
Technology and the means to create a carbon-free, green future for the EU and the world is now available. All that's needed is commitment, and companies must take the lead. As Sir Richard Branson has said, “Climate change is a huge challenge, but it can be brought in line if governments, businesses, and individuals work together.”