The IPCC 1.5 degrees report: we need further faster action

Setting science-based 1.5 degree targets sends demand signals to the market for innovation and increased provision of low carbon alternatives, argues Gabrielle Ginér, Head of Environmental Sustainability at BT, ahead of the release of the IPCC’s report on 1.5 degrees.

BT’s 1.5 degree Celsius science-based target

At BT, we have recognised the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s why we set a science-based target in line with a 1.5 degree trajectory in September 2017. Our target is to reduce the carbon emissions intensity of our operations by 87% by 2030 against a 2016/17 baseline.

We have also set a target to reduce the carbon emissions associated with our supply chain by 29% by 2030 on 2016/17 levels.

BT has around 18,000 suppliers and our supply chain spend is over £14 bn a year. While our own operations are responsible for 7% of our carbon impact, customers using our products and services constitutes 26% and the carbon associated with our supply chain 68%.

This is why we spend a lot of time focusing on working with our suppliers to try and inspire them to take climate action. Following a successful pilot, we are introducing a sustainability contract clause into our major contracts. The clause requires a supplier to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption over the term of the contract with BT.

Ambitious targets and collective action drive innovation

By setting the 1.5 degree target, we are sending demand signals to the market for innovation and increased provision of low carbon alternatives.

Just look at how the renewable energy market has changed since the launch of RE100. A collective of companies coming together has radically changed our energy markets and the availability of renewable energy.

And look at what is now starting to happen on ultra low emissions vehicles. Fleet operators, vehicle manufactures, charge point providers, governments and other organisations are all stepping up to embrace the low carbon vehicle future.

We need more of this. We need to be ambitious to drive more innovation.

ICT driving carbon reduction

ICT is a vital and unique tool for climate action. It has the potential to play a significant role in driving carbon reduction while generating substantial economic and socio-economic benefits.

In 2013, when we announced our Net Good target to help customers reduce their carbon emissions by at least three times the end-to-end carbon impact of our business by 2020, we were only just net positive, but in the five years since we have doubled that ratio. We are now at a ratio of 2.2 to 1.The revenue from these products and services is £5.3bn or 22% of BT’s total revenues.And, in 2017/18, our products helped customers avoid at least 11.3 million tonnes of CO2e, for example through video conferencing and vehicle telematics – fantastic!

Leading by example, inspiring others

We know that being ambitious can pay off. We reached our previous carbon reduction target four years early. In 2008 we set a target to reduce the carbon emissions intensity of our business by 80% by 2020. We actually managed to do so by 2016. Meeting that target gave us the confidence to aim higher and lead by example with our 1.5 degree target.

We know that the only way we can achieve a 1.5°C world is through collaboration and collective effort. There are really positive signs that suggest that the shift to a low carbon society is becoming unstoppable, but we also need to make sure that it happens as quickly as possible. Businesses are increasingly creating economic value without harming the planet.

We welcome the IPCC report

We welcome the publication of the IPPC report which will be very important in highlighting that organisations need to start setting 1.5 degree targets. The report is about urgency. It will show the difference between keeping temperature rise at 1.5 degrees C versus 2 degrees C, and highlight why it’s so vital we keep global warming down, for example for coral reefs to have a chance of survival.

We hope that the report will inspire others to also set 1.5 degree Celsius science-based targets.

Gabrielle Ginér is Head of Environmental Sustainability at BT