Generate Business Value by Including Short Lived Climate Pollutants in Your Climate Action Plan

Author: Tobias Schultz, Manager of Corporate Sustainability Services and Senior LCA Practitioner

In Generating Business Value with GHG Management (January 25), I explored five ways for companies to derive business value from GHG management strategies: 1) boosting sales through climate-friendly product marketing; 2) enhancing brand value and recognition; 3) earning extra revenue through carbon credits; 4) improving opportunities for funding; and 5) anticipating supply chain disruptions. As it turns out, by including “short-lived climate pollutants” in your company’s Climate Action Plan, you can extend these benefits even further.

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What are Short Lived Climate Pollutants, and why are they important?
Short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are types of emissions which, unlike long lived carbon dioxide (CO2), do not remain in the atmosphere for long after emission. This can be just a few weeks or months, like black carbon, the black particles in soot. Other SLCPs last a few years, like methane and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a widely used refrigerant. Despite their short lifetime, SLCPs pack a big punch; collectively, these pollutants cause about 60% of climate change.

Climate scientists around the world have told us that reducing emissions of SLCPs is the only way to immediately slowing global warming. Why? Precisely because they are short-lived. Once gone, they stop contributing to global warming. This means reducing emissions of SLCPs has an immediate benefit for the climate.

"We have to reduce SLCPs as quickly as possible to avoid irreversible tipping points and stay below 2 degrees warming” … Achim Steiner, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme"

Governments have begun to proactively address SLCPs as well as focus on carbon dioxide and other long-lived gasses. The State of California is in the process of enacting its Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy, and has already evaluated its SLCP inventory. Reducing SLCPs were also a major topic of discussion during the Paris Agreement’s negotiation. Scientific and policy oriented groups such as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition are taking proactive steps to drive SLCP reductions internationally.

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Where does my business emit SLCPs?
SLCP emissions are associated with a wide range of business activities up and down the supply chain. The importance of different SLCPs depends on the nature of your business. For example, consider these four common sources of SLCPs in the food products industry:

  • Embedded methane emissions in dairy and meat products from cattle husbandry
  • Methane from conventional wetland rice cultivation
  • Black carbon and nitrogen oxides released during product transport
  • Black carbon and nitrogen oxides emitted when agricultural resides are burned
  • Sulfur dioxide emissions during electricity use results in a big climate effect, and also have negative consequences on acid rain

What is the business value of including SLCPs in your company’s Climate Action Plan?
Including SLCPs in GHG inventories and Climate Action Plans can benefit your business in a number of ways:

  • Enhance your brand recognition by establishing yourself as a leader in climate change action
  • Receive recognition under systems like the Climate Collaborative or We Mean Business Coalition, which provide credit for taking action on short-lived pollutants
  • Differentiate yourself from your competitors by publicly talking about steps you take to reduce SLCPs
  • Stay ahead of upcoming regulatory actions focused on SLCPs
  • Ensure your inventory is accurate, allowing you to make the most informed choices about climate strategies you implement
  • Take advantage of new funding mechanisms being developed to target SLCP mitigation. These are just a few of the ways addressing SLCPs can provide business value

Which companies have evaluated SLCP emissions?
SCS has worked with a number of companies to evaluate SLCP emissions across corporate footprints, and for specific products and different types of tools. New Leaf and Guayaki are two such companies.

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Interested in learning more? Contact Tobias at [email protected]