Last month, we heard the stark warning from the UN on the ‘overwhelming’ impacts of climate change, which are likely to be ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible’. Clearly it’s an issue that needs a global response but we all have an important role to play - whether it’s turning off the TV once we’re finished watching it or choosing a more fuel efficient car.
You’ve probably guessed, but combatting climate change and reducing global warming are issues close to my heart, and I’m fortunate to work for a company that understands climate change as a serious challenge requiring swift and meaningful action both today and for the foreseeable future.
We’re doing a lot across the business to reduce carbon emissions; from the energy we produce to power and heat homes and businesses, to enabling people to be more in control of their energy consumption. For example, we are on track to meet our target to cut the carbon intensity of our power generation by 40% by 2020 based on 2008 levels. We have also installed 70% of the UK’s smart meters and enabled 9.8m tonnes of CO2 saved (comparable to taking more than 668,000 cars off the road), through products British Gas installed in customer homes since 2010. Another important area my team and I are working hard to drive carbon reductions is in our internal carbon footprint – those from our core offices, company vehicles and travel (note1). It’s our internal carbon footprint that I want to talk with you about today.
In 2013, these emissions were 91,464 tCO2e (note2), which was a similar level to 2012 and represents a 19% reduction from 2007. This means we remain on track to achieve our 20% reduction target by the end of 2015 from a 2007 baseline.
So how are we achieving reductions?
Compared to 2012, we cut emissions from our major UK properties by 8.6%, which has helped us offset rising emissions from increased activity in North America. This reduction was achieved by mainly improving building management system and lighting controls as well as installing solar panels. Of these, the biggest contribution was made by solar power, now generated at most of our major sites, helping save over 350 tonnes CO2 in 2013. We are also making big investments in Energy Performance Contracts to secure longer-term carbon savings. At one of our Manchester offices for example, we introduced a gas supply to the all-electric building supplemented by a biomass boiler, enabling carbon savings when heating the building.
We also replaced older, inefficient offices with a new building in Oxford which we estimate has a third of its energy derived from renewable or low carbon technology.
In 2013, our van fleet emissions rose due again to an increase in business activity although overall, we’ve actually achieved a 13% reduction since 2007. To proactively reduce emissions going forward, we are working with Nissan in the largest commercial electric vehicle (EV) trial in the UK, helping secure invaluable insights into the practical use of commercial EVs so that improvements can be made to enable mass adoption. The trial has expanded to include 26 operational vans and we hope to have 1,300 in our UK fleet by 2015 (if there’s sufficient availability of a suitable model).
In North America, we also continued to install GPS tracking in over 1,480 vans. This allows us to limit speed and monitor things like mileage and idle times which can improve the way our engineers drive, improve fuel consumption and reduce carbon emissions.
Lastly, we’re encouraging our people to use alternatives to business travel. Video-conferencing (VC) is a key way we do this as it can help reduce our increasing air travel associated with the expansion of our North America business. And we’re seeing significant growth in VC use with over 12,000 meetings having taken place in 2013 and we expect this to grow further this year.
In 2013, emissions from company car travel also reduced by 2% through continuing promotion of EVs and fuel-efficient company cars. Since 2007, our average tailpipe emissions in the UK have fallen from 166g CO2/km to a 2013 average of 120g CO2/km. And to support higher EV take-up, we’ve installed 38 charging stations across our buildings.
While we have worked hard to effectively manage and reduce our internal carbon footprint, we realise there’s more we can do. We will therefore remain committed to meeting our 2015 target through greater efficiencies as our operational activity increases, in order to ensure we play our part in mitigating climate change.
1 Internal carbon footprint is different from our total carbon emissions, the latter of which include emissions from our power stations as well as our gas and oil operations.