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Tesco ‘moving markets’ with new carbon targets

Supermarket giant Tesco has become the first corporate in the world to commit to carbon reduction targets modelled on 1.5 degrees of global warming and aims to bring suppliers with it.

Supermarket giant Tesco has become the first corporate in the world to commit to carbon reduction targets modelled on 1.5 degrees of global warming and aims to bring suppliers with it.  

The international Paris Agreement on climate change, agreed by nearly 200 countries in 2015, set a collective commitment to limit global warming to “well below” 2°C and to “pursue” 1.5°C to help island nations expected to suffer most from sea level rise.

Scientists have confirmed that average global temperatures have already risen by 1°C, making the 1.5°C target an unexpectedly ambitious goal.

Tesco has become the first company to announce that its own carbon targets have been calculated based on the requirements for it to contribute to the 1.5°C goal.

Ramping up targets

The company had already invested over £700 million in the energy efficiency of its stores and distribution centres since 2007, saving £200 million in annual energy costs and putting it on track to deliver its initial 2020 target for emissions.

However, Kené Umeasiegbu, head of climate change at Tesco, announced on 15 May that tougher targets were needed.

Tesco will now aim to achieve an absolute carbon reduction of 35 per cent by 2020, 60 per cent by 2025 and 100 per cent by 2050, compared to 2015 levels.

Companies in Tesco’s supply chain will also be encouraged to adopt targets of 7 per cent by 2020 and 35 per cent by 2030.

‘Change the conversation’

Myles McCarthy, director of implementation at the Carbon Trust, explained that the move was down to “policy certainty” within the UK and “a tipping point in the costs and deployment of renewables”, as well as “a matter of showing leadership and raising the ambitions of others”.

“If global corporates of Tesco’s size and scale go public with 1.5°C targets, this can move markets and change the conversation. It can give legislators confidence that they will not be knocking business success by pushing through stronger regulations. And it can unlock investment into developing new low carbon products and services, persuading industries and financiers that there will be an eager market”, he added.

“Although Tesco are first to reveal a 1.5°C goal, behind the scenes there are a number of other global companies following closely behind.”