As we settle into the new year it’s a great time to take a fresh look at your sustainability program to ensure it focuses on impacts and issues that are relevant to your organisation and helps to differentiate you from your peers.
A key component of your review should be to understand how the Paris agreement will impact your organisation.
The Paris Agreement has created much excitement being the first comprehensive global treaty focusing on combatting climate change. Once ratified, it will commence operations in 2020 after the Kyoto Protocol ends. All nations must pledge action on climate change and aim to restrict global warming to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and strive to limit it to 1.5°C1. The Agreement is legally binding with requirements for developed countries to disclose every two years their emissions, progress on meeting their targets, climate adaptation actions and climate finance provided2.
The Australian government has pledged to reduce emissions by 26-28% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, however, this has been argued by many as not enough to ensure Australia does it’s part to meet the 2°C objective3. In addition, Australia’s current climate change policies will make it difficult to meet its pledge3. As such, the government is under increasing pressure to review its reduction targets and policies, given a raft of organisations have recently made their own significant commitments including:
- 116 companies globally have pledged to reduce emissions in accordance with the 2°C objective including Australian Ethical Investment, Bank Australia, Origin Energy, Westpac and Woolworths4
- The South Australian government has committed to making the City of Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city5
- 35 institutions in Australia have committed to fossil fuel divestment including the National Tertiary Education Union, Australian Academy of Science, ACT Government and 14 local governments including the City of Melbourne, Newcastle City Council, and Moreland City Council6
- Origin Energy and Bank Australia committed to all seven climate commitments under the We Mean Business Commit to Action platform, which includes putting a price on carbon and procuring 100% of electricity from renewable sources7
- Over 300 CEOs, heads of state and civil society leaders have signed onto the new UN Sustainable Development Goals which includes the goal to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”8
The government has stated that it will undertake a detailed review of its emissions reduction policy framework in 20179. It is likely that this review will include actions pledged by other nations including carbon pricing (i.e. emissions trading or carbon taxes), performance standards for coal plants and gas-fired generators, retiring or retrofitting old power plants and large-scale forest plantations.
In any event, it is likely that Australian climate change policy will tighten by 2020 and this will impact your organisation. You should ensure you are taking actions now to reduce your emissions in order to reduce your future exposure and costs. Actions include:
- Implement efficient and timely carbon accounting processes and tools
- Identify and prioritise emission reduction actions
- Set internal emission reduction targets
- Revisit previously identified emission reduction opportunities for greater energy efficiency and innovative low-carbon technologies
- Monitor the cost and emissions reductions achieved via efficiency projects being implemented
- Consider offsetting part of your emissions profile
- Communicate on results and progress to demonstrate to stakeholders that climate change risks and opportunities are being appropriately managed
About Balance Carbon
Balance Carbon is an Australian based carbon, energy and sustainability management services provider. We are committed to achieving sustainability faster. Our core services are focused on the three pillars of:
- Sustainability and carbon advisory and assurance services
- Utility cost, energy, carbon and sustainability data integration and management
- Carbon offset management and transactions
We have recently launched trellis – a cost effective web-based application for utility and sustainability data management and reporting excellence.
1 Hopkin, M 2015, ‘Beyond Paris: what was really achieved at the COP21 climate summit, and what next?’, The Conversation, 16 December, viewed 14 January 2016, <https://theconversation.com/beyond-paris-what-was-really-achieved-at-the-cop21-climate-summit-and-what-next-52320 >.
2 Jeyarantnam E, Whitmore J, Hopkin M & Mountain W 2015, ‘The Paris climate agreement at a glance’, The Conversation, 13 December, viewed 14 January 2016, <https://theconversation.com/the-paris-climate-agreement-at-a-glance-50465>.
3 Nelson T, McNeill J, Siriwardana M & Meng S 2015, ‘After Paris: now what for Australia’s climate policy?’, The Conversation, 16 December, viewed 14 January 2016,
4 Science Based Targets 2015, viewed 14 January 2016, <http://sciencebasedtargets.org/companies-taking-action/>.
5 Weatherill J & Hunter I 2015, ‘Adelaide leads on reducing carbon emissions ahead of Paris Conference’, Government of South Australia, 29 November, viewed 14 January 2016, <http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/Home/Full_newsevents_listing/News_Events_Listing/151129-adelaide-leading-carbon-emissions>.
6 Fossil Free Australia 2015, viewed 14 January 2016, < http://gofossilfree.org.au/whos-divested/>.
7 Bank Australia 2016, viewed 14 January 2016, < https://bankaust.com.au/about-us/news/planet/bank-australia-commits-to-climate-change-leadership-ahead-of-paris-talks/>.
8 United Nations 2015, Sustainable Development Goals, viewed 14 January 2016 <https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300>.
9 Commonwealth of Australia 2015, National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy 2015.