Dangerously Close To 2 Degrees Celsius
The Importance of 2 degrees [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oQUcUKInmI]
Environmentalists have marked the 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP21) - also known as the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference - being held this week and the next in Paris, on their calendar eagerly. The topic of climate change is nothing new. It has been debated and discussed extensively in the past two decades by politicians, governments, and environment activists. But, this time around, there seems to be a sense of urgency. Average temperature of the Earth has increased by 0.85 degrees Celsius since 1880. And if the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions stay high, experts predict that we could see the average temperate rise anywhere between 2 to 4 degrees Celsius. Global warming to that extent can wreak havoc across the world. We're talking about floods, wildfires, extreme heat, limited water supply, and much, much more. That's why, it's more important than ever for heads of states at COP21 to arrive at an agreement to keep global warming below the critical threshold of 2 degrees Celsius.
As someone who is passionate about preserving the environment, I've been closely following the discussions around COP21. It's encouraging that many large corporates are also pledging their commitment to this endeavor. In an open letter to world leaders, CEOs from 78 companies, including Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka, have come together to reduce GHG emissions, and help the world move to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum (WEF), have offered to contribute concrete innovations, solutions, practices, and policies to reduce the overall global warming. This alliance has set targets to reduce their own GHG gas emissions and further seeks to catalyze and aggregate action and initiatives from companies from all industry sectors.
Think about this: Governments across the world have made progress, albeit sporadically, in the fight to curb global warming. Denmark, for example, created a world record by using wind source for 39.1% of its electricity needs in 2014. And, on a particularly windy day, the country produced 140% of all its electricity needs from wind power for a brief period of time! Electricity needs of approximately 6.7 million families in the U.K. were met by wind-generated electricity. Inspiring stories come from as far as the Caribbean island of Bonaire, which has completely modified its electricity source from fossil fuels to renewable sources, after a major fire broke out in the year 2004 destroying its diesel power plant.
Now, think about some creative ways in which corporations are trying to do their bit for the environment. DHL has deployed couriers on bicycles in nine European countries so far, and it has replaced 33 trucks with 33 cargo bikes in the Netherlands. The latter, the company estimates, reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 152 metric tons per year. Technology company, Dell, has introduced plant-based packaging, which can be composted and used in gardens to add nutrients back into the soil. At Infosys, we have also been working towards reducing our carbon intensity, per capita electricity consumption, and meet 100% of our electricity consumption from renewable energy sources. We've made significant progress - at this moment, 30% of our electricity comes from renewable sources, in-house developed Radiflux radiant panels improve energy performance in buildings, and we now have 12 LEED Platinum-rated buildings.
Undoubtedly, there's great intent on the part of the governments and global enterprises across the world. With commitment from 78 global enterprises, facilitated by WEF, there's so much more that we can achieve. The most important asset that corporates bring to the table is the ability to influence individuals, citizens. Enterprises can build a corporate culture that encourages sustainability - reducing business travel, for example. By committing to ambitious environment goals, they can make a significant impression on employees. In fact, I believe corporates can engage employees and channelize their energies towards a greater cause, creating mini-revolution. But, we have to start reasonable. Car-free Wednesdays? Lights-off lunch hours? Incentivizing employee volunteerism, recycling?
One outcome that I hope will emerge in the near future is a better understanding of renewable energy sources as a viable option. Research, innovation, and the power of technology can make that happen and corporates can provide that support. I cannot think of a better time for corporates to do much more. The COP21 summit has the potential to establish the fundamentals for a path that will bring together governments and corporations. Governments, corporations and the larger society have to synergize their efforts towards a greener tomorrow - NOW!