Finding a Cost-Effective Path to Climate Leadership

The author

Long Lam
Climate Strategies and Policies

A new wave of climate change regulations is coming, and this time to all corners of the world. Following the Paris Agreement, more than 80% of countries have already drawn up plans on how to contribute to the low carbon transition. Some have realised plans that put a price on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While the majority still have to translate those into concrete regulations, the uncertain timing and cost effects of these regulations create risks for businesses.

Internal carbon pricing (ICP) can help companies navigate the tentative regulatory waters. Assigning an internal price to their carbon footprint enables companies to translate future effects of climate change regulations into a monetary metric. This allows decision makers to compare climate measures on equal financial terms and implement the most cost-effective ones. Already, almost 1,400 companies—including more than 100 Fortune Global 500 companies, representing about $7 trillion in annual revenue—have reported to CDP that they are using an ICP, or plan to do so in the coming 2 years. Most companies use ICP to manage exposure to climate-related risks, while a smaller subset uses it for scenario analysis of these risks, as recommended by the Financial Stability Board Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. Only a few progressive companies try to utilise the full potential of ICP to find the cheapest measures to prepare for regulatory risks, discover new revenue opportunities, and reduce their carbon footprints.

4D Framework to Internal Carbon Pricing (c) Carbon Pricing Unlocked

Ecofys, a Navigant company, The Generation Foundation, and CDP developed a new 4D framework to help companies find the most cost-effective way forward in the low carbon transition as follows:

  • Have a carbon price level capable of affecting decisions (Height). Saint-Gobain uses two carbon prices, one for capital expenditure decisions and a higher price to stimulate R&D in disruptive low carbon technology.
  • Cover the GHG emissions hotspots in the value chain that can be influenced (Width). Carrefour decided to use ICP on GHG emissions related to energy use from its stores, which covers 90% of emissions it could directly influence.
  • Integrate it into business decisions (Depth). DSM has integrated ICP in existing business processes and has made it a mandatory factor in the financials for large investment decisions.
  • Evaluate regularly in line with business strategy (Time). Danone updated its ICP in 2016 to align it with its target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Three Success Factors to Setting Up an ICP Approach

With each dimension affecting the next, companies will have to decide between tradeoffs of acceptability, accuracy, administrative burden, and effect. Optimal combinations of model will vary depending on goals, GHG emissions profiles, influence in the value chain, and company culture. Nonetheless, three overarching success factors were identified for setting up a best practice ICP approach:

  1. Obtain board-level support early on. The CFO and other strategy directors are especially important because well implemented ICP will influence financial decisions.
  2. Engage the organisation from the start. Take the affected teams on board to create a sense of ownership and improve internal buy-in.
  3. Start simple and learn by doing. Try embedding it in daily decisions. Over time, you can gradually increase the effect of ICP in the decision-making process.

Building on industry interviews and public consultation, Ecofys, a Navigant company, the Generation Foundation, and CDP published a guide detailing a four-step approach to establish a best practice ICP. Accompanied by a C-suite guide for executives, it allows companies to identify the most promising ICP approach for their organisation. Using ICP in a best practice way helps to actually ride the wave of new climate change regulations, not be overwhelmed by them.

This blog post was equally published to

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