Procurement of renewable energy is one of the faster, relatively economical and more importantly, is the easiest solutions to tackling carbon emissions and as such they have become the natural choice of various agencies, governments and other organisations to meet the GHG emission commitments. They are especially so in countries like India where solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energies are readily available. With demand increasing, costs are falling and, in many cases, green energy is now as cost effective, if not cheaper, than fossil fuels.
Programmes such as lighting upgrades, installation of more sophisticated controls and solar panel retrofits are very popular among various smart city corporations, urban local bodies, state agencies and they feature heavily in corporate carbon strategies. As carbon reduction capital works, they present simple solution with the added bonus of generating a positive return on investment.
But, at the end of the day one need to ask question – is it enough to buy green energy and use carbon offsets to compensate emissions? Does our job end here? By taking these steps are we really going to achieve our ultimate objective? Answer for these questions cannot be yes, though it may not be firm no either. Because something is better than nothing – even baby steps are welcome.
But remember, organisations also need to reduce their energy use and substantially reduce their GHG emissions. Around 40% of man-made global carbon emissions come from the construction and operation of buildings. Though we are in the primitive stage of taking actions on this front, some base work like reframing the building code and certification and audit processes have already been done and some states have already announced their intention to make these provisions mandatory. However, what we are lacking is on the corporate front where we are not finding any urgency of the situation and treating the case as ‘business as usual.’
In a way year 2020 is a year of lesson for these corporates as the reduced business travel necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought huge 2020 carbon win. It is no surprise, therefore, that businesses abroad have identified longer-term opportunities for carbon savings through reduced national and international travel. It’s time for the corporates in India too follow the footsteps of their foreign counterparts.
Businesses also need to accelerate their thinking regarding the need to retain extensive corporate office space in the light of emergence of the concept of work from home. They should also be mindful of the need to calculate and measure the carbon impacts generated from home working.
While refrigerants are responsible for huge greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, they are still a low priority for businesses. So, there is need to divert substantial part of our thought process in that direction.
The mammoth challenge of combatting climate change is one that we will only achieve together by sharing learning, collaborating to problem solve, and supporting innovations on a grand scale. A commitment to transform business practices and deliver net zero has to be led from the highest level. Truly addressing the climate emergency challenge requires a culture that puts carbon at the forefront of every business decision. For the majority of businesses not founded explicitly upon social or environmental purpose, achieving the level of change needed may require considerable business transformation.