Possible but difficult imperative, climate neutrality must now move from concept to reality. The planet needs us to talk less and do more if we are to get closer to the 2050 deadline set in the Paris Agreement.
On February 10, Polestar and Tortoise Media brought together media, industry stakeholders and environmentalists to examine the challenges and opportunities surrounding climate neutrality at a digital live event titled: “Net Zero: From Talk to Action – What Really Works?”
Present to discuss Polestar’s efforts towards net-zero, responsible for sustainable development, Fredrika klarén was joined by a climate and cleantech thought leader Diana fox carney, co-founder of Exponential Roadmap, Johan Falk and moderator, Giles Whittel.
Why compensation is not enough
On paper, the journey to net zero seems straightforward. We need to halve emissions by 2030, then halve them again… and again. This equates to a 7% reduction year over year. Minimum.
The discussion of how this is done has turned to the current trend for large companies to offset emissions or balance CO2 emissions by investing in other green initiatives like planting trees. The problem is, it allows companies to assert their green credentials while clinging to a carbon-intensive status quo.
By referencing the Company guide at 1.5 ° C – a guide to help companies create an effective strategy to halve their emissions by 2030 – Johan Falk reminded companies to clean up their own operations before investing in nature-based climate solutions outside of their value chain. This means reducing operational emissions and launching your own sustainable solutions before buying trees or throwing money at the problem.
Diana fox carney agrees. It can never be fair enough. Decarbonization must go as far as manual elimination of residual emissions. Because once we can successfully remove dispersed carbon dioxide from the air, things like long-haul aviation become viable.
Offsetting will certainly play a role in achieving net zero, but climate neutrality cannot be bought. Businesses today should not pretend their product is in any way climate neutral until it actually is. From conception to end of life.
Transparency is the only way to go
No stranger to being the “control of human reality” for large companies, Klarén believes that the way forward is to build fully transparent climate agendas, “EVs are incredible technology that can be used today. But they are not perfect.
Today every product comes to market with environmental debt, and Polestar cars are no exception. However, when you consider that electric vehicles have the potential to be carbon neutral and traditionally powered cars are not, a point of light appears at the end of the emissions-filled tunnel.
At Polestar, we don’t try to hide the amount of work that remains to be done. We are also not busy breaking self-defined benchmarks. Our Life cycle assessment the reports document the environmental impact of our products, as well as the methodology used to measure this impact, and can be accessed by anyone.
We want our consumers and employees to know what they are buying from.
Make climate your business
On accountability, Falk argues that rich countries, businesses and individuals should lead the way. From a consumer perspective, greener choices are often more expensive, and no one denies that technological advancement can be costly.
He also concludes that, as governments move too slowly, most of the work will fall to companies. But even here we see leaders shirking their responsibilities.
The Tortoise Liability Index 100 compares FTSE 100 companies with each other on the basis of social and environmental policies. And while the numbers show significant efforts are being made, there aren’t enough climate strategies aligned with the 1.5 ° C Paris Agreement. The report also points out that only five of the top 100 companies encourage or reward senior executives for their environmental performance (non-profit).
The clock is ticking for fossil-based companies
On a positive note, and contrary to the beliefs of the board, trends show that companies with the climate in their corporate DNA will begin to outperform fossil-based organizations.
Achieving carbon neutrality will be critical to the survival of every business, no matter how the pendulum swings, but how do we take the first steps? Johan Falk says “estimate your emissions, set goals and get moving.”
The Exponential roadmap – a Initiative that brings together innovators, scientists, companies and NGOs, with the mission of halving emissions by 2030 – emphasizes that climate requires a holistic approach. Everyone needs to review their value chain and rethink their business models. Polestar is an open book when it comes to traceability and transparency, which allows it to remain accountable for the change it is committed to making.
Fossil pathways will end this decade anyway, so companies need to look at the practicalities, change what can be changed quickly, and go from there. Those who do it sooner will be successful.
Electrify the revolution
A truly innovative business will always find success in new solutions, and Fredrika klarén believes Polestar will be a leader on the automotive front line.
“This is our opportunity to lead the electric revolution with transparency as a keyword. If we start with greenwashing now, we are going down the wrong path and risk losing customer trust. “
An electric vehicle is not yet carbon neutral, but charging it with renewable energy and it has half the impact of an equivalent ICE vehicle. Car for car, this corresponds to the current ambition of 1.5 ° C. But there is still a lot to do to meet the next deadline.
What you can do
When asked for tangible calls to action, Klarén called for an industry-wide revolution.
She urged executives to stop investing in legacy technologies and called on consumers to demand information and use their purchasing power. Internally, employees need to create a culture of speaking out and not be afraid to question non-transparency.
If the road to climate neutrality may not be clearly mapped out, we must give up sailing en route. The race for net zero has begun, and it is a race we cannot afford to lose.
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Published March 23, 2021 – 13:53 UTC