Our globe is heating and excess of Greenhouse Gases (GHG), including CO2, methane and nitrous oxide, are responsible for it. As per the Paris Agreement, 127 countries, including the US, have committed to net zero emissions (bring GHG release to zero), which means 63% of world emissions will be neutralised by 2050. In terms of volume, the world intends to bring annual emissions down from the present 57 gigatons of CO2 to zero.
Unfortunately, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that instead of coming down, highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions in human history are set to be recorded in the next two years. This is happening mainly because of the failure of governments to invest in green energy as part of efforts to rebuild economies after COVID-19.
What can the industrial sector do to mitigate the problem?
The industrial sector, on its part, can help change the situation for better. As per one Harvard Business Review report, one in five of the world’s 2,000 largest publicly listed companies have now committed to a “net-zero” emissions target — meaning that by 2050 they will produce close to zero emissions and will offset the remaining.
Just like governments, most companies have set high targets, but are in the dark about how to start and where to start.
While technology offers green solutions like adoption of clean energy sources (solar and wind), companies can look at the natural world for finding ways to reduce carbon concentration in the air. The following five ways can easily help bring down carbon emissions by a good 30%.
- Protect forests
Companies should stop deforestation by telling the suppliers to take decisive and impactful action companies in that direction. The Harvard Business Review report suggests that if the private sector collaborates with governments to reduce deforestation, we could avoid 3.6 gega tonnes of emissions annually. This way the world’s net zero emission target can be reached by 2030.
Companies need to understand that several emissions happen beyond commercial value chains by way of activities like subsistence agriculture and natural disasters, for example forest fires. They should think beyond their own supply chains and incentivise activities that support sustainable management of land. This enables companies to display a new kind of corporate climate leadership, bolstering climate action by supplementing rigorous internal emission reduction plans, the Harvard Business Review suggests.
2. Restore land and wetlands
Two targets need to be set simultaneously — reduce carbon dioxide emissions and remove carbon from the air. Companies can contribute to both the activities by restoring degraded forests by planting native trees alongside crops in agricultural fields and by restoring wetlands. The advantages of these activities are substantial. They provide employment for local communities, aid biodiversity conservation, help restore wildlife corridors and improve water and soil quality. When measures in numbers, it could remove 3.1 gega tonne of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
3. Opt for plant-based diets, cut meat consumption
Agriculture and the meat industry (especially due to methane release) contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Consumers can help by reducing meat consumption and shift to plant-based diets. Companies can contribute by promoting product range that is primarily plant-based.
A report says that if we double our consumption of fruits, vegetables and legumes and cut red meat consumption by 50%, GHG emissions from our food systems can be reduced by 4.8 gega tonne every year by 2050.
4. Invest in sustainable agricultural
Promoting regenerative agriculture is the best possible way of having a sustainable planet to live on. Regenerative agriculture lays focus on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services and supporting biosequestration. Cutting down fertilizer use and reducing livestock emissions will go a long way in achieving the objective of sustainable agriculture. All these activities put together will help cut GHG emissions by 1 gega tonne annually by 2030. However, these activities need an investment of $300-$350 billion every year. Companies and industries can contribute to that end by investing in research and development (R&D) in decarbonizing agriculture and creating new markets for the products of this change.
5. Support governments in framing nature-friendly policies
Just like media advocacy, industry advocacy will go a long way in shaping government policies that support greater action for both nature and climate. Companies can stand with governments in bringing in incentives and regulation to enable a quick transition to new approaches for nature.
Companies need to understand that their existence in the future will depend on a sustainable planet, which can be made possible only by way of contributing and collaborating in protecting biodiversity, improving soil quality and conserving fresh water sources.
It’s high time companies invest in Nature and reap its benefits for ever.