Many massive corporations’ reliance on a sure sort of extremely scrutinized power credit score could also be a sign that the non-public sector is much behind in efforts to scale back contributions to local weather change, in accordance with new analysis.
The analysis, printed in early June within the journal Nature Local weather Change, focuses on renewable power certifications (RECs), that are paperwork that present that a specific amount of power has been created utilizing renewable strategies similar to wind or photo voltaic.
The analysis discovered that many corporations would have a a lot bigger carbon footprint with out these credit, which many environmentalists take into account ineffective.
“in my opinion, [RECs are] “It is at all times deceptive, as a result of in a bodily sense, it would not use renewable power,” said Anders Bjorn, a postdoctoral fellow at Concordia University and lead author on the study.
The difference once the RECs are removed creates a major discrepancy, putting many companies behind goals aimed at meeting the Paris Agreement. The agreement, adopted in 2015, is an international treaty between 192 countries and the European Union that seeks to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep global temperature levels from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Companies buy RECs so that they can offset a portion of their carbon emissions. This practice comes from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, an initiative that provides the primary standard by which companies estimate their emissions. With this emissions accounting method, companies are able to significantly reduce the carbon emissions they report without making major changes to their operations.
Companies have embraced markets such as carbon credit programs and regional economic communities that allow them to show that they are taking steps to reduce their environmental impacts. Many of these programs are based on a cash-for-credit system, where the company pays money for a credit created to represent green energy generation. Offsets represent emission reductions, while RECs represent the use of renewable electricity.
Bjorn’s research looked at the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), which helps companies meet emissions targets and follow existing greenhouse gas protocols. Through SBTi, more than 1,000 companies have pledged to achieve net zero emissions.
In theory, RECs aim to increase the amount companies invest in renewables. However, a large body of previous research has indicated that RECs don’t actually work that way, according to Michael Gillen Water, a researcher at REC and executive director and dean of the Greenhouse Gas Administration, a nonprofit organization focused on environmental impact accounting.
All research has shown this unequivocally [the REC market] “Do nothing,” Gilnwater mentioned. “It is fundamentally ineffective in terms of affecting investment in or generation of renewable energy.”
Though the RECs goal to generate investments that can drive the creation of recent photo voltaic and wind farms, it seems that little, if any, renewable power has been created as a result of, as Gillenwater explains, “RECs will not be sufficient. “
The study from Concordia University shows how far companies are from the Paris Agreement carbon emissions targets when the amounts offset by the RECs are removed. According to current measurements, 68% of the 115 companies analyzed in the study have reduced their emissions enough to align with the 1.5°C target. But the study found that when RECs are excluded, only 36% of companies meet the target.
The study focused only on Scope 2 emissions, which are emissions related to electricity purchases. According to the study, although companies reduced their Scope 2 emissions by 31%, these companies actually reduced emissions by only 10% when excluding RECs.
“The widespread use of RECs raises doubts about the apparent historical emissions reductions for Paris-compliant companies, as they allow companies to report unrealistic emission reductions,” the study researchers said.
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is due to review its standards later this year. The researchers advocate a change in how emissions are reported that include a more nuanced understanding of RECs.
“We recognize that there is increasing concern about companies using low-impact tools to reduce Scope 2 emissions that are market-based, from an emissions accounting standpoint, without making a difference in the real world,” SBTi said in a statement to Bloomberg. “This is a matter that goes past SBTi, and we really feel that the most effective resolution consists of revised accounting ideas and tips for all customers.”
Shannon Lloyd, one of the researchers, emphasized that the problem is not the companies, but the system itself.
“In my opinion, the call for this paper should not be, ‘Let’s point the finger,'” Lloyd mentioned. ‘The decision needs to be, ‘Let’s discover out’.