2018 will be the best year yet for business to accelerate climate action

Reading time: 3 minutes
18 December 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, Mike Peirce, Corporate Partnerships Director at The Climate Group reflects on growing corporate action on energy and climate change – and looks ahead to 2018.

On the eve of the One Planet Summit in Paris last week, I joined Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF’s Chairman and CEO, together with 30 senior international executives and the company’s automotive supplier base, to celebrate EDF joining The Climate Group’s EV100 campaign. The utility is the first French company to join EV100 and commit to converting its entire fleet to electric vehicles by 2030.

This was one of several announcements made by EDF as it fought to get ahead of the news agenda for the Summit, which was set up by President Macron to mark two years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement. M. Lévy also launched the EDF Solar Power Plan, pledged to develop the green bond market, and joined 90 other French companies in signing the French Business Climate Pledge – collectively committing more than US$370 billion in funding, research and development.

That same day,  Schneider Electric joined our energy productivity and renewable electricity campaigns – The Climate Group runs EP100 in partnership with the Alliance to Save Energy, and RE100 together with CDP. Schneider Electric is doubling its energy productivity by 2030 and aims to source 100% renewable electricity by the same year.

Soon after came announcements of new members of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, now including RE100 members such as BT Group, Marks & Spencer, Royal DSM and Unilever. After the buzz of business commitments that we saw around COP23 in Bonn, these are all tangible signals that show as much action is taking place outside the negotiating arenas as within them.

SYSTEM INTERLINKAGES

What’s novel here is that companies are recognizing and communicating the inextricable links across various elements of the energy transition – whatever the sector they work in – and associating them with business growth. Schneider Electric has joined Dalmia Cement, H&M, Landsec and Swiss Re as a member of both RE100 and EP100, while RE100 members ASKUL, IKEA Group, HP Inc. and Unilever have also chosen to join EV100

In most cases, electric vehicles (EVs) have a climate benefit even with a mix of energy sources on the grid – as well as providing the immediate benefits of reduced air and noise pollution in city centers. But the full contribution of electric vehicles as a zero-carbon solution will come when they are powered by renewable energy – exactly the kind of market change being driven by RE100 members.

The potential goes further. By integrating EVs and their batteries into the energy system through smart charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, they can also become part of the solution for storage challenges created as we increase the share of intermittent, decentralized energy. All the while, doubling energy productivity helps companies to use electricity as economically as possible, with the efficiency gains helping balance out the increase in demand that will arise from increased EV uptake.

BUSINESS CASE

What does this mean for an individual company? Well, for EDF, electricity will play a major role in the decarbonization of economies, and the Group’s commitment to EV100 is in keeping with those of cities and regions already committed to the  clean, low-carbon transport switchover.

“We have to be among the forerunners and show just how important this field is,” I heard M. Lévy say. Little wonder the utility is rolling out EV charging infrastructure internationally to support private individuals, businesses and local authorities – a visible sign of EDF’s commitment.

For Schneider Electric, there is a clear business case to act. Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman and CEO, said “joining EP100 and RE100 is a demonstration of how consumers and business can be empowered to ensure the affordability, resilience, sustainability, and security of the energy that they consume”.

Schneider Electric also values best practice sharing offered through RE100. “We trust The Climate Group’s ability, together with their partners CDP on RE100, to bring together key stakeholders from business, governments, and civil society, to help trigger rapid changes towards a better climate,” said Xavier Houot, SVP Global Safety, Environment, Real Estate in our exclusive interview.

LOOKING AHEAD

At The Climate Group, we deliberately created campaigns that allow companies to play a leading role in different areas of the energy transition. By keeping the campaigns targeted, we are well-placed to communicate to policymakers the power of the demand signal from the businesses on specific energy themes. And we have also been able to support companies on some targeted implementation challenges, for example with EU renewable energy policy.

But we do encourage companies to engage across the range of campaigns to identify and address the connections between these issues; and in recent months we have started to sense that we aren’t having to work so hard to push the ball uphill.

2018 is set to be the best year yet for the contribution of business to accelerating climate action. Whether through renewable power, energy productivity, electric vehicles, or other innovations, corporate action is driving market change – and in turn, helping others to move. As well as demonstrating the progress already being made, I look forward to welcoming the first leading player to make commitments across all of our initiatives.

Click here for more information on our business campaigns.

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