Making a Case for Climate Neutrality
Pioneering examples of moving towards a low-carbon economy shared through a new publication by the UNEP Climate Neutral Network
Nairobi/Copenhagen, 17 December 2009 - From entire countries pledging climate neutrality to companies that have proposed numerous solutions to decrease "digital carbon", the pioneering examples of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and promoting "green growth" at all levels are presented in a new publication "A Case for Climate Neutrality".
Launched today at the Copenhagen climate change conference, the publication draws upon the experiences of nearly 200 participants of the Climate Neutral Network (CN Net) led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which includes countries, regions, cities, companies and organizations that are moving towards low-carbon economies and societies.
The 10 case studies examine the areas of transport, building and construction, food, banking and finance, media and advertising, event management, energy, and information and communication technologies. They also present some of the dilemmas facing the trailblazers on the path to climate neutrality, including carbon offsetting, uncertainty surrounding future policy and market regulations, and even 'greenwash' concerns.
"These case studies convey frank and personal testimony surrounding the challenges, rewards and occasional frustrations involved in pushing the boundaries on climate change. Overwhelmingly, though, the CN Net participants profiled in these case studies have positive experiences to report and share which should inspire many others to commit to climate neutrality," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
From corporate giants with carbon footprints commensurate with those of medium-size countries, to boutique hotels and advertising agencies, to large-scale music and sport events, the publication offers insights into how the climate neutrality process changes the way private and public entities approach their own operations as well as their relations with customers, suppliers, audiences and other key stakeholders.
For example, the Norwegian city of Arendal, which has pledged to go climate neutral, has set up a network bringing together local companies which share the same commitment. One of its members is the major Norwegian renewable energy supplier Fjordkraft, which made climate neutrality a requirement for all of its suppliers by 2010.
"Their main motivation is to develop goods and services for tomorrow's low emission markets," explains Svein Tveitdal, Arendal City Climate Advisor.
While most CN Net members featured in the publication have chosen to offset some of their emissions, they see it as a last-resort measure after reducing their carbon footprint to the extent possible.
For Steve Bonnici from New Zealand's Urgent Couriers, making deep reduction cuts is at the heart of the company's climate neutral strategy: "Once you make the commitment to pay for your unavoidable emissions, you become very focused on reduction."
For Deutsche Post DHL, with its annual carbon emissions about the same as Croatia's, and Dell, which emits roughly as much greenhouse gases as Spain every year, transition to climate neutrality presents some unique challenges.
The global logistics company's major undertaking is to reduce more than 25 million tonnes of carbon emissions from subcontracted transport companies, which account for the bulk of its emissions.
For Dell, reducing emissions used in running of its computers and servers worldwide—estimated at 5 million tonnes annually—is the greatest challenge, as the company's own emissions are just the tip of the iceberg as far as Dell's overall impact is concerned.
Rising to the climate change challenge can also bring other benefits for communities and conservation. Greenfest, a climate neutral festival in Queensland, Australia, has chose to offset its unavoidable emissions through a state government initiative which aims to regenerate wilderness areas bordering national parks and create biodiversity corridors.
"Winning the race against climate change will be a hollow victory if we arrive without rich biodiversity and real wilderness on Earth. Let's not lose sight of conservation priorities for biodiversity in pursuit of carbon neutrality—let's leverage the race against climate change to fund conservation," says Greenfest's founder Colman Ridge.
Investments in climate neutrality have often led to substantial savings for companies and public bodies alike. For example, climate-smart solutions in the construction sector translate to energy-smart—and cheaper—buildings, a win-win situation for both property developers and tenants. The publication features the case of retrofitting a small hotel in Shanghai and a major renovation project of the UN's own headquarters in New York.
For the Scandinavian IT company Atea, the quest for climate neutrality ushered in an opportunity to rethink its business model, making operations more efficient and becoming productive as a team. The company has significantly cut on business travel after calculating that it 'eats up' approximately 478,922 working hours a year.
The marketing and advertising industry has been capitalizing on the 'green' image that accompanies climate neutrality for quite some time now. The sector also sees its positive role in influencing others, particularly clients and consumers, to embrace more sustainable lifestyles.
"Until now, the resources of creative agencies have been at the service of an economy that generates social inequalities, wastes resources, encourages excessive consumption—and they have been very effective at it! This ingenuity can now be used to help change attitudes and perceptions of happiness, success and progress, by highlighting the limits on our resources and global warming," says Jean-Marc Gancille from the French advertising agency INOXIA.
However, choosing climate neutrality for PR purposes alone is not a viable option, according to CN Net participant Andrew Railton from New Zealand Wine Company: "It shouldn't be undertaken lightly. Understand it, believe in it—if you are looking for a quick fix marketing gimmick this isn't it. Becoming a carbon neutral company should force you to turn your company inside out and make you look at all the pieces differently."
The case studies were launched on 15 December at the iSeeT@theClimate Change Kiosk at the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.
The publication "A Case for Climate Neutrality – Case studies on moving towards a low carbon economy" is available online at: http://www.unep.org/pdf/CN-Net_case_studies.pdf