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  • A CASE FOR CLIMATE NEUTRALITY

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    A Case for Climate Neutrality

     

     
     
    International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2010

    In A Case for Climate Neutrality:Case Studies on Moving Towards a Low-Carbon Economy, participants of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Climate Neutral Network (CN Net) shared the challenges, rewards and occasional frustrations involved in pushing the boundaries on climate change.

     Since its launch in February 2008, CN Net has attracted a growing number of participants - including companies, associations, cities, regions, international bodies and even countries - dedicated to reducing and eventually eliminating their negative impact on the climate.

    "There is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to being climate neutral," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner. "It involves different practices and priorities for different organizations, but going climate neutral can be an enriching and worthwhile experience, making climate change a real and tangible issue, and a way of translating the political process into real and sustainable action on the ground."

    The CN Net participants profiled in these case studies have positive experiences to report and share which should inspire many others to commit to climate neutrality. Certain key messages come through:

    • Measuring and finding ways of reducing emissions has often led to substantial savings in the costs to companies and public bodies.
    • The process of going climate neutral now is a good way of getting ahead of the game - taking action before regulations direct markets towards a low-carbon future.

    Offsetting emissions is not just a matter of paying some extra money to help your conscience. Your climate impact can extend well beyond the emissions directly created by the activities of your company, city or organization: suppliers making the materials you use, as well as customers using your products or services, all are part of the wider footprint of your activities. Influencing those impacts can be more important than the direct emissions of an entity's coreactivities.

    A low-carbon diet

    Agriculture accounts for about 13 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions covered by the Kyoto Protocol. Accounting for the true climate impacts of food and drink is especially challenging, as these products often involve long and complex chains of production and distribution. But some companies in this sector have embraced the climate neutral concept, and find it can help cut costs as well as motivate both staff and customers.

    Dole Fresh Fruit, Costa Rica

    Dole Fresh Fruit International decided to move towards climate-neutral production as part of Costa Rica's ambition to become climate neutral by 2021. As one of the world's leading exporters of pineapples and bananas to the United States and Europe, Dole had great scope to find ways of minimizing the significant emissions involved in getting its products to market.

    The first stage, as with all companies working towards carbon neutrality, was to work out the scope or boundaries of the emissions to be measured and to calculate the current footprint. Dole's inventory has included the emissions associated with agricultural production and with transport of the fruit, both by land and by sea.

    The company's strategy to reduce emissions included looking at innovative solutions. For example, research is under way on the use of live leguminous trees instead of concrete posts to prop up banana plants. As well as cutting down the emissions needed to make the concrete, the trees themselves capture carbon and add nitrogen to the soil.

    Other measures include controlled-release fertilizers to cut down on emissions of nitrous oxide (the third most significant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide and methane), training of machine operators to minimize fuel use and various initiatives to save on transport emissions.

    To offset the emissions involved in getting its fruit to ports, Dole contributes to Costa Rica's Environmental Services Payment Programme, providing reforestation incentives to small farmers in the country.

    Dole's director of environment and food safety, Rudy Amador, says the process has already brought tangible benefits, such as fuel savings amounting to a cut of 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year and savings to employees on their own fuel bills through training on efficient vehicle use.

    "You don't need to measure every last emission to take action," says Mr Amador. "While analysing your business from the climate change perspective, opportunities for improvements are identified that can be implemented right away or in the near term."

    Kaffehuset Friele, Norway

    Cost savings through carbon neutrality are also being discovered by Norway's leading coffee-roasting company Kaffehuset Friele. The biggest step being taken by the company is to switch its roaster from fuel oil to gas, estimated to save about 500 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

    To account for the company's remaining emissions, Friele is investing in two carbon reduction projects in coffee-growing countries: a small hydro scheme in Brazil certified by the UN Clean Development Mechanism and a project in Kenya to make biodiesel from jatropha plants, a scheme attracting Gold Standard certification.

    Friele's Olav Munch says it has been important for the company to select offset projects with which it has a direct connection, rather than simply buying credits "off the shelf". "We realize that as a corporation we impact local communities in developing countries, and much of the CO2 emissions that are created in the production process of our coffee affects them as well. We therefore consider it our responsibility to invest in clean energy projects in the regions where our trade is set," says Mr Munch.

    "Also, the measurement of CO2 emissions is rather intangible. Who can really picture how much 500 tonnes of CO2 is? Having something to invest in that we can relate to, with the same quantity, makes it all seem a little bit more tangible."

    Even so, says Mr Munch, it hasn't been easy to communicate the company's efforts to its employees and customers. "There has been a lot of bad press about companies falsely advertising climate neutrality, so we've often felt like we met with more resistance than approval by the public when we announced our carbon neutrality. It would be nice if there was a consensus about the requirements to make the claim that you are carbon neutral."

    Antipodes Water, New Zealand

    Offering carbon-neutral bottled water drawn from a deep aquifer, Antipodes Water has explored reducing its footprint through measures including using recycled glass instead of plastic for its bottles, keeping staff in all its main distribution regions to minimize business travel, sending its bottles via rail freight and installing solar panelling for heating.

    The company offsets all unavoidable emissions using projects approved by New Zealand's Landcare Research through its carboNZero programme. Antipodes Water has also carved out two wetlands and reforested an area with 2,000 native kahikatea trees on the site of its bottling plant, and the company argues that this makes its product carbon positive.

    Andrew Railton of New Zealand's Antipodes Water, another Climate Neutral Network member, advises companies considering a carbon-neutrality pledge: "It shouldn't be undertakenlightly. If you are looking for a quick fix marketing gimmick this isn't it. Becoming a carbon-neutral company should force you to turn your company inside out and make you look at all the pieces differently."



    The United Nations Environment Programme provides environmental leadership on dealing with climate change to the rest of the UN system, international organizations, national governments, civil society and the private sector. It also provides advice to governments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the consequences of changed climate and has helped to develop international agreements on climate change. For more information visit www.unep.org/climatechange/

    Note: These case studies are extracts from UNEP's A Case for Climate Neutrality: Case Studies on Moving Towards a Low-Carbon Economy publication, featuring participants of UNEP's Climate Neutral Network (www.unep.org/climateneutral). To download the full PDF please go to:www.unep.org/pdf/CNNet _ case _ studies.pdf