Climate neutrality in the face of burning forests: now more than ever

January 22, 2020

According to first findings, the forest fires in Australia brought a total of around 350 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere between August and mid-December 2019 alone. This corresponds to more than half of the annual greenhouse gas emissions of the Australian industry and more than a third of those of Germany´s industry in 2018. Even more than the fires in Brazil, Siberia and other regions in the last few years, these fires truly have apocalyptic dimensions. The regeneration of the forests and the restoration of their ability to store CO2 will take decades. Some voices even name it a new era, the Pyrocene. The term refers to the definition of the geological eras and describes a state in which there is an increasing amount of fires globally that last ever longer and that become ever more intensive.

Even though the goal of a medium-term global climate neutrality may have suffered a setback with this catastrophe, there can be only one response – to keep going now more than ever and to tackle the problem at its root. This means fighting climate change more intensively and more vigorously than ever before as it is the climate change related drought that weakens the forests and makes them vulnerable to such fires.

A considered way to achieve climate neutrality is to reduce, avoid and offset unavoidable carbon emissions via validated climate protection projects. It is also promoted by the United Nations within the framework of the UN Climate Change initiative Climate Neutral Now and makes an immediate and twofold impact: On the one hand, emissions are being reduced and offset; on the other hand, dedicated forest protection and forestation projects ensure that existing forest areas are strengthened and that new ones can come into being.

Here in particular there is reason for cautious optimism. Even before the fires in Australia the topic of climate protection was at the very top in public perception and discussion. At the same time, companies and consumers had never before had such a large lever for positive change in their hands. Thus, what politicians have managed only half-heartedly or not at all so far could now be tackled by business and society. The means and solutions exist; only their application is not yet clear enough for many.

Uncertainty, challenges and hope

In addition to the shock caused by the fires, it is also the success of initiatives such as Fridays for Future, the public pressure originated by it as well as the dissatisfaction with politicians’ sluggishness that motivates more and more companies to recognise climate protection as an important element of their business strategy. Added to this are increasing operational aspects such as performance requirements of business partners, specifications from investors, as well as employee wishes, customer expectations and thus, ultimately advantages in product marketing. In the end, all of this makes it seem almost logical that climate protection be seen as the new currency and climate neutrality as a mandatory feature within companies’ business strategy. Last year, a study by the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business in collaboration with the market research institute IRI found that products marketed as sustainable accounted for more than half of market growth between 2013 and 2018.

The need and the advantages are obvious. Now companies need a reliable partner that they can trust, that works transparently and that delivers results that are traceable and operable.

Going climate-neutral requires a clear idea of a company´s emissions and footprint, how it wants to deal with its climate responsibility and what objective is to be achieved. There are already a few general conditions and cornerstones for this. There are specific, applicable standards and requirements formulated, for example, in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG) and in the ISO standards that refer to it such as ISO 14001 and ISO 14067. Additionally, in some countries such as Switzerland and France there are already legal regulations. And the more internationally companies operate, the sooner they are confronted with additional directives of the capital market. Nevertheless, many companies are still uncertain as to how they can meet these standards and their responsibility towards the climate.

For solution providers such as ClimatePartner, this means highlighting a clear process path that a company can follow and always to perform its services in a transparent and traceable manner. This creates understanding and willingness on the customer side to integrate climate protection and the process towards climate neutrality required for it into their company strategy as a permanent component. Additionally, transparency in implementation and in the climate protection projects ensures that the efforts are not misunderstood as marketing measures or greenwashing. Rather, they can be seen as genuine engagement with concrete, tangible results.

Our homework for 2020

Positive momentum can indeed be seen among companies. Never before had so many companies decided to collaborate with ClimatePartner within a year as in 2019. We now had well over 2,000 customers in a total of 35 countries. All of them are taking on responsibility. They show a real will to set up and shape their climate strategy, integrate climate protection into their company and value creation strategy and also make this visible to outsiders.

We want to actively support this transformation process towards a climate-neutral industry and therefore increase our resources in order to offer companies – from craft businesses to international groups – even better support with our expertise. Therefore, for 2020, we focus on a further expansion with enlarged consultant teams in Berlin, Munich, Vienna and Zürich as well as, for the first time, a dedicated team for the French market. In total, ClimatePartner currently has about 70 employees – an increase of nearly 50 per cent compared to the previous year.

Other fields being expanded are customer service and IT. Today, the integrability of the ClimatePartner solution for the transparent calculation of carbon footprints is already considered industry-leading. This is to be made even more flexible and user-friendly so that companies can anchor climate protection measures even more easily in their processes and strategies.

Further, ClimatePartner will expand its range of climate protection projects. These include  international climate protection projects that, through their social and environment-specific effects, offer high additional benefit and make a visible contribution to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition to that, ClimatePartner wants to offer companies more opportunities to support local measures and initiatives such as forest protection and forestation projects. In view of the facts described in the introduction, this task in particular is becoming more important than ever and, unfortunately, is probably now coming at the right time more than before.