IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change Company or industry-initiated voluntary actions

Many companies participate in GHG emissions reporting programmes as well as take voluntary actions to reduce energy use or GHG emissions through individual corporate programmes, non-governmental organization (NGO) programmes and industry association initiatives. Some of these companies report their GHG emission in annual environmental or sustainable development reports, or in their Corporate Annual Report. Beginning in the late 1990s, a number of individual companies initiated in-house energy or GHG emissions management programmes and made GHG emissions reduction commitments (Margolick and Russell, 2001; PCA, 2002).

Questions have been raised as to whether such initiatives, which operate outside regulatory or legal frameworks, often without standardized monitoring and reporting procedures, just delay the implementation of government-initiated programmes without delivering real emissions reductions (OECD, 2002). Early programmes appear to have produced little benefit. For example, an evaluation of the Germany industry’s self-defined global-warming declaration found that achievements in the first reporting period appeared to be equivalent to business-as-usual trends (Jochem and Eichhammer, 1999; Ramesohl and Kristof, 2001). However, more recent efforts appear to have yielded positive results (RWI, 2004). Examples of targets and the actual reductions achieved include:

  • DuPont’s reduction of GHG emissions by over 72% while holding energy use constant, surpassing its pledge to reduce GHG emissions by 65% by 2010 and hold energy use constant compared to a 1990 baseline (DuPont, 2002; McFarland, 2005);
  • BP’s target to reduce GHG emissions by 10% in 2010 compared to a 1990 baseline which was reached in 2001 (BP, 2003; BP, 2005), and
  • United Technologies Corporation’s goal to reduce energy and water consumption by 25% as a percentage of sales by the year 2007 using a 1997 baseline that was exceeded by achieving a 27% energy reduction and 34% water use reduction through 2002 (Rainey and Patilis, 2000; UTC, 2003).

Often these corporate commitments are formalized through GHG reporting programmes or registries such as the World Economic Forum Greenhouse Gas Register where 13 multinational companies disclose the amount of GHGs their worldwide operations produce (WEF, 2005) and through NGO programmes such as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change’s Business Environmental Leadership Council (Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 2005), the World Wildlife Fund’s Climate Savers Program (WWF, n.d.), as well as programmes of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX, 2005).

Industrial trade associations provide another platform for organizing and implementing GHG mitigation programmes:

  • The International Aluminium Institute initiated the Aluminium for Future Generations sustainability programme in 2003, which established nine sustainable development voluntary objectives (increased to 12 in 2006), 22 performance indicators, and a programme to provide technical services to member companies (IAI, 2004). Performance to date against GHG mitigation objectives was discussed in Section
  • The World Semiconductor Council (WSC), comprised of semiconductor industry associations of the United States, Japan, Europe, Republic of Korea and Chinese Taipei, established a target of reducing PFC emissions by at least 10% below the 1995 baseline level by 2010 (Bartos, 2001).
  • The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) started the Cement Sustainability Initiative in 1999 with ten large cement companies and it has now grown to 16 (WBCSD, 2005). The Initiative conducts research related to actions that can be undertaken by cement companies to reduce GHG emissions (Battelle Institute/WBCSD, 2002) and outlines specific member company actions (WBCSD, 2002). As of 2004, 94% of the 619 kilns of CSI member companies had developed CO2 inventories and three had established emissions reduction targets (WBCSD, 2005).
  • By 2003, the Japanese chemical industry had reduced its CO2 emissions intensity by 9% compared with 1990-levels (Nippon Keidanren, 2004), but due to increased production, overall CO2 emissions were up by 10.5%.
  • The European Chemical Industry Council established a Voluntary Energy Efficiency Programme (VEEP) with a commitment to improve energy efficiency by 20% between 1990 and 2005, provided that no additional energy taxes are introduced (CEFIC, 2002).

In 2003, the members of the International Iron and Steel Institute, representing 38% of global steel production, committed to voluntary reductions in energy and GHG emission intensities. In most countries this programme is too new to provide meaningful results (IISI, 2006). However, as part of a larger voluntary programme in Japan, Japanese steelmakers committed to a voluntary action programme to mitigate climate change with the goal of a 10% reduction in energy consumption in 2010 against 1990. In fiscal year 2003, this programme resulted in a 6.4% reduction in CO2 intensity emissions against 1990, through improvement of blast furnaces, upgrade of oxygen production plants, installation of regenerative burners and other steps (Nippon Keidanren, 2004).