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Major Irish firms claim significant progress on carbon reduction target

Major Irish firms claim significant progress on carbon reduction target

A new report claims that 47 major Irish firms have already made significant progress in meeting a carbon reduction target initially set for 2030.

The pledge was made as part of the Business in the Community Ireland group – and sees the likes of Diageo, Musgraves and Ornua aim to cut their carbon intensity by 50% by 2030.

According to a report by PwC published this morning, the average cut achieved in the first year was 36%.

Carbon intensity takes a company’s size and activity into account and is not a straight measurement of pollution levels.

However Tomás Sercovich, CEO of Business in the Community Ireland, says it helps capture the progress of firms that may be enjoying rapid growth – and is a good first step for measuring their environmental impact.

“The challenge that we have ahead of us in terms of climate resilience is about decoupling economic growth from emissions,” he said. “What we really wanted to get across here was a starting point; a level of ambition, and then look at how we can reduce this going forward.”

However the report does also try to estimate the amount of actual Co2 removed from the economy by the signatories, which it says fell by 42% or around 6.6 metric tonnes.

This was done largely through a reduction in what are called Scope 1 emissions, which relate to a firm’s direct output through things like manufacturing and transportation.

“I know it’s a hard to grasp content in terms of what that means, but they are actual reductions, and at the end of the day it’s about a starting point and looking at where we go for further reductions,” Mr Sercovich said.

One issue with that data is the fact that around one third of firms did not get their figures independently verified – meaning that it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Mr Sercovich said this shows how under-developed the practice is in Ireland, and highlights the need for improved auditing as firms strive to improve their record.

“It is something that we need to put more rigour and discipline around what companies are doing in this space,” he said. “What we have done is used internationally validated sources for the information to be processed… we have checked the data ourselves and obviously in some cases asked if it was verified.

“We would like to see more verification externally, of course.”

Should the figures prove to be accurate, however, it would represent a significant step towards the 2030 target in the space of a year.

Mr Sercovich said this will prompt them to be more ambitious than before – though he also notes that the next reduction in Co2 may not come as easily.

“36% out of 50% sounds like ‘almost there’ but the real challenge will be sustaining those intensity reductions, in terms of the investments that need to be done, in terms of the transformation of business models that are needed,” he said. “The last mile will be the most challenging one.

“What we need to do is keep on raising the level of ambition – this is like the Paris agreement – we are going to be working on how we can achieve the 50% reduction earlier, or how we can go even deeper, or look at other sources of emissions.”

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