Exactly five years ago, on December 12, 2015, history was made at the climate conference in Paris: Almost all countries in the world agreed to reduce global warming to below two degrees Celsius, and ideally below 1,5 degrees in the interests of climate protection Want to limit the comparison to pre-industrial values. In autumn 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC then decided in favor of the target of 1,5 degrees Celsius in order to prevent massive consequences of climate change. And that means: the world should have net zero emissions by the middle of this century. For this, all anthropogenic, i.e. man-made greenhouse gases must be reduced as much as possible and unavoidable residual emissions neutralized through separation and permanent storage. So the bottom line is that from 2050 no more anthropogenic greenhouse gases should enter the atmosphere.

Ambitious climate protection: the journey to net zero

So much for the target. And if you listen to the expressions of political will, the major decarbonisation is likely to be just around the corner: With the Green Deal, the EU Commission has set itself the goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Japan and South Korea announced in autumn that they would also aim for this target for 2050. The designated US President Joe Biden plans the same for the US, China wants to do it at least by 2060. 

Climate protection: Constantin Saleta, Denkstatt
Constantin Saleta, memorial

And Austria? According to the government program, there should be climate-neutral living and working in this country as early as 2040. Only: A seriously pursued journey to net zero requires significantly more than just individual cosmetic measures. Companies in particular can make a significant contribution here in a positive sense, says Constantin Saleta, Senior Consultant at the sustainability consultant Thinking place in Vienna: "In addition, companies will have to reckon with increasingly stricter government regulations and also with higher expectations on the part of customers, investors and the general public." 

Confusion about climate protection

Climate protection is anything but new territory for many Austrian companies: They have been investing in energy-saving technologies for years, getting green electricity, planting trees and buying CO2-Certificates. “There are some companies in this country that are at the forefront, abandoning climate-damaging production methods and rethinking. But there are also companies that have no plan how they want to operate more climate-friendly in the future and still appear sustainable through their marketing, "says Katharina Rogenhofer, spokeswoman for the people's climate initiative.

The range of terms and measures - the climate protection community speaks of "wild growth" - is already causing confusion. It is advertised with sympathetic attributes such as “climate-friendly”, “CO2-neutral "," net-zero "," emission-free "," sustainable "or" climate neutral ". This makes it difficult, especially for laypeople, to distinguish between pioneers, fellow swimmers and laggards. One problem today is that “there is a lack of internationally recognized definitions, in particular what climate neutrality actually means for companies,” says Saleta.

Pact for corporate climate protection

The one launched in 2011 shows what an effective contribution by companies to climate protection in Austria could actually look like Climate active pact: a voluntary alliance of twelve large companies that have committed themselves to implementing Austrian climate protection goals at company level. The first round, which will expire at the end of 2020, included BUWOG, Danone, Greiner Packaging, Ölz, REWE and Vöslauer Mineralwasser. Together with experts, they developed individual climate protection concepts and implemented measures - from the use of waste heat from machines for heating purposes through thermal building renovation to the expansion of electric mobility. 

A balance sheet was drawn up in October: Compared to the base year 2005, the participants in the Pact managed to jointly reduce their emissions by 50 percent, increase energy efficiency by 33 percent and increase the use of renewable energy sources to 60 percent. Together, around 2,2 million tons of CO2-Equivalent saved. "The Active Climate Pact is a good program for corporate climate protection," says Saleta, praising the initiative, which will be continued in a second round until 2030. However, from the point of view of climate science, more intensive efforts are needed. “It is not enough just to get better at your own domestic locations. Climate protection must be thought ahead and pursued more ambitiously, ”explains the expert. 

Closing the climate protection gap

But how can you close the gap between “striving” and “ambitious”? What would be “good enough”? And who could support companies in this? One answer is provided by the international initiative for science-based goals (Science Based Targets Initiative SBTI). It was dated 2015 World Resource Institute, the environmental protection organization WWF, the sustainability transparency initiative CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) and the company network United Nations Global Compact brought to life. The platform helps companies develop CO2-Reduction paths, which, depending on the level of ambition, are based on the temperature targets of "well below 2 degrees" or "1,5 degrees". To this end, short-term goals that can be achieved within five to 15 years are set as milestones.

This year the initiative itself reached an important milestone: More than a thousand companies - at the beginning of December there were 1.074 - have joined it. Many big players such as Amazon, Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline, Ford and Volkswagen are participating. And ten companies with Austrian headquarters can also be found in the SBTI database: These include Austrian Post, Verbund, Lenzing, Constantia Flexibles, Austria Glas Recycling, Raiffeisen Bank International and A1 Telekom Austria. 

Climate protection: Stefan Ropac, WWF Austria
Stefan Ropac, WWF Austria

There is also the Climate Group a network of WWF Austria that supports companies in developing science-based goals. For example, IKEA Austria, Allianz Austria, Spar, Gugler and Vöslauer are on board. "For some of our partners, the international parent companies have already committed to goals," explains Stefan Ropac, project manager for Climate & Energy at WWF. In any case, interest in Austria is growing: "While we used to have to do a lot of persuading companies, we are now getting more inquiries," says Ropac. And so it was not difficult to win colleagues for a new pilot project: Consultants Denkstatt and WWF Austria are currently supporting 15 companies in the transition to low-emission management based on 1,5 degree target paths.

15 for 1,5 degrees

A pilot project supported by WWF Austria and Denkstatt  Companies developing ambitious climate strategies. 

"Paths to the 1,5 degree economy“Is the name of a new project for companies funded by the Climate and Energy Fund. Over the next two years, 15 participants from the building, industry, financial services and mobility sector clusters will be accompanied in determining science-based emission reduction targets (according to the Science Based Target Initiative) that correspond to a 1,5 degree target. Some participants are dealing with this type of goal for the first time, while others want to make their existing climate paths more ambitious. WWF and Denkstatt support companies in determining their greenhouse gas footprints, paying particular attention to indirect emissions from the upstream and downstream value chain. The second step is about concrete measures that enable a rapid reduction in emissions and thus the achievement of the goals.

And these are the 15 participating companies:

  • financial services: BKS Bank, UniCredit Bank Austria, VBV Vorsorgekasse
  • Buildings: A1, Value One
  • Manufacturing: AT&S, Greiner AG, Gugler, Mondi Group, Palfinger, RHIM, Vöslauer
  • Mobility: ÖBB, SPAR, Österreichische Post AG

Ambitious climate protection: balance sheet at the beginning

Climate protection: Christian Ramaseder, Mondi
Christian Ramaseder, Mondi

One company that works with the science-based goals of the SBTI and is also participating in the 1,5 degree pilot project is the London and Vienna-based packaging and paper giant Mondi Group. "We are active in a very energy-intensive area and want to reduce our emissions as much as possible," explains environmental manager Christian Ramaseder, "and anyone who wants to pursue climate protection honestly has to rely on externally recognized goals." Lisa Pum, environmental manager at Austrian Post, participation in the SBTI: "We want to ensure the credibility of our climate protection strategies using scientifically recognized methods."

If a company is committed to the SBTI, it must develop goals within two years and have them checked by the initiative. Around half of the thousand participants have taken this step. The preparatory work for this is time-consuming: companies have to look beyond the boundaries of their own operating sites and determine their greenhouse gases in three categories, the so-called scopes. Scope 1 are direct emissions caused by company facilities and vehicles. Scope 2 includes indirect emissions from purchased electricity, heating and cooling. "Most companies have data on Scope 1 and 2", explains Ropac, "it only becomes difficult with Scope 3 emissions that occur in the upstream and downstream value chain, i.e. at suppliers or during disposal or transport". According to this, for example, a discount store should use the CO2- Know the footprint of all purchased goods or take a car manufacturer into account, how much CO2 accrues during the service life of a vehicle. 

In view of complex global supply chains, unknown consumer behavior or the lack of access to data, companies quickly reach the limits of feasibility. “In practice, many companies start by evaluating two to three hotspots in the value chain. These are areas in which high CO2 -Emissions occur and in which companies see possibilities to be able to bring about a reduction. The latter is not that easy. Because even the largest Austrian companies are often only small players in global value chains, ”says Saleta. 

According to the SBTI, reduction targets must be developed and effective measures found only if Scope 3 emissions are assessed as “significant”, i.e. if they make up more than 40 percent of a company's total footprint. While it is relatively easy to replace business trips with virtual meetings, for example, changes in purchasing, product design or use by the customer may be necessary The soother boils in households. So the focus here is primarily on the consumer. “For food manufacturers, the question arises whether high-emission raw materials can be exchanged without disadvantages in terms of quality, price or delivery reliability,” says the Denkstatt expert. 

Many levers for more climate protection

In accordance with the targets set in 2016, Austrian Post must achieve a 2025 percent reduction in all emissions by 14 (compared to 2013). “Our biggest Scope 3 hotspot is the transports by external partners,” explains Pum.

Climate protection at the post office: Austrian Post currently has the largest e-fleet in the country.
With almost 2.000 single and multi-lane electric vehicles, Swiss Post currently has the largest electric fleet in the country.

“That is why we want to shift transports more into our own area of ​​responsibility in the future and advise our partner companies on e-mobility.” According to Pum, Post already has the largest e-vehicle fleet in Austria with almost 2.000 e-vehicles. The electricity for this comes from our own photovoltaic systems, which produce around 1,3 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, as well as from purchased green electricity from Austria. 

Climate protection: Lisa Pum, Austrian Post
Lisa Pum, Austrian Post

With measures of this kind, the Post was able to reduce its CO2-Reduce emissions from around 100.000 tons to around 76.000 tons annually. The company is currently revising its science-based goal as part of the 1,5 degree pilot project. On the one hand, because due to the strong increase in parcel shipping - also due to the corona - earlier assumptions no longer hold, and on the other hand, in order to stay ahead in terms of climate protection. "Our new 1,5 degree target will require an even greater reduction in emissions than our previous 2 degree target, ”explains Pum. 

The Mondi Group, which is active in more than 30 countries, does not currently have to pursue any Scope 3 targets, because high Scope 1 and 2 emissions dominate CO2-Footprint. The first milestone of the 2019 degree target path developed in 2 is therefore: Reduction of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 34 percent per ton of salable products by 2025 compared to 2014. Mondi has been investing in heat recovery and energy recovery systems in the pulp and paper mills in the amount of 700 million euros, says Ramaseder. The Group can increasingly generate its own energy in the form of heat and electricity from biomass and feed local district heating networks with waste heat. The investments are noticeable, says Ramaseder: “Since 2014 we have reduced our emissions from more than five to four million tons of CO2 per year. "

Framework for the future

Mondi's goals were determined using a “sector-based approach” from the SBTI. This is one of several ways that companies can calculate their contribution to climate protection. A new such framework for the financial sector was recently published, with which Raiffeisen Bank International is now developing its first science-based target path. “The financial sector is particularly challenging,” explains Saleta, “after all, the office buildings of a bank are not relevant for climate protection. The big lever can be found in the emissions that are in the financial portfolios. ”Accordingly, climate risks must be determined in investments and corporate loans as well as in savings products, car leasing or housing finance, and“ these calculations ”, Ropac adds,“ are anything but trivial." 

Before the end of the year, a framework should also be created for the sector that is naturally difficult to decarbonise: the oil and gas industry. So far, six industry representatives have joined the SBTI; due to the lack of framework, it is still too early to set goals. "If you really want climate neutrality, sooner or later oil and gas providers will have to develop completely new business models," says WWF expert Ropac. What this can look like is currently being investigated by the OMVwho is not officially on board with the SBTI, but participated in the development of the new method as part of the consultation process. In any case, the group also wants to score points with Paris-compliant objectives. A new climate strategy should help position the company “not as an opponent of climate protection, but as part of the solution”, says CEO Rainer Seele. OMV is planning net zero emissions for Scope 1 and 2 by 2050 at the latest. “And for our future target setting, especially for Scope 3 emissions from product use, we will include the framework of the SBTI for the oil and gas sector “, Says Brigitte Bichler, Head of Carbon, Energy & ESG Management (see Interview).

Interview with Brigitte Bichler, Head of Carbon, Energy & ESG Management, OMV

Climate protection: Brigitte Bichler, Head of Carbon, Energy & ESG Management, OMV

OMV: Fit for the future through climate protection

What focus has OMV set in its climate targets up to 2050? Bichler: Our long-term focus is clearly on climate neutrality in line with the Paris Agreement ...

Step by step, the fossil fuel business is to be trimmed towards climate protection. In the case of crude oil, this means moving away from incineration towards petrochemical refinement and towards durable products that can be reused via the circular economy. The group also wants to develop and offer competencies in a future-oriented topic: for climate neutrality, you also need “negative emissions” through the capture of CO2 and its storage or use.

Already climate neutral

But how is it possible that some companies already have CO2-Achieve neutrality? This is achieved by investing in climate protection projects with which CO2Emissions are offset. With such compensation, however, science-based goals cannot be achieved, explains Saleta: "The SBTI wants to prevent companies from buying themselves free from climate protection in their core business."

Real commitment therefore requires that a company actually reduces avoidable emissions. The Post, currently with “CO2-Neutral delivered “letters and parcels advertises, relies on both: reduction of greenhouse gases, CO2-Compensations for the remaining amount - with the intention of reducing the latter. "By 2030, our last mile deliveries should be XNUMX percent with e-vehicles or alternative forms of drive, and thus green," announces Pum.

Ambitious climate protection is welcome

In any case, doing climate protection with science-based goals is feasible. "If the CEO is convinced and takes climate protection into account in all decisions, including the setting of bonuses for employees, then a lot is possible," says Ropac. But does it also pay off from a company perspective? “Yes, it does,” Ramaseder from Mondi is convinced, “climate goals go hand in hand with energy efficiency. Optimizing our energy use means saving energy costs - that makes it economically very interesting. "

There should also be an advantage when it comes to financing via the capital market. “When it is gaining in importance for investors Climate Change Rating from CDP a science-based goal now earns more points than a normal one, ”says Saleta. Ambitious climate protection could also be worthwhile for reputation, risk management and innovation.

In any case, it would be desirable for the planet that low-emission economy is perceived above all as one thing: a great opportunity. 

Photos: Austrian Post (2), Mondi Group, WWF Austria, Denkstatt, OMV