Moving to carbon neutral is a universal goal and a fixture on the international political agenda since the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Agreement sets a goal of keeping the increase in global temperature to “well below 2°C” above pre-industrial levels.
Veolia is fully engaged with this process and committed to helping combat the climate emergency as part of its mission of Resourcing the World.
Our drive for carbon neutrality centers on three complementary approaches:
- Reducing and avoiding emission of greenhouse gases
- Offsetting emissions that are unavoidable
- Capturing CO2 present in the atmosphere
1. Veolia acts to reduce emissions via a range of responses that reflect its degree of responsibility.
For its wholly owned assets, Veolia’s activities involving the use of coal accounted for 2.9% of revenue and 31% of direct emissions by activities under its operational control in 2017. In 2018, the Board of Directors decided that Veolia should gradually eliminate the use of coal. We have given a commitment not to develop or acquire additional coal-fired heat- or electricity-generating activities, except for activities specifically designed to substitute coal with other fuels that create fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than dodging our responsibilities by selling off polluting activities, we have committed to taking immediate steps in two areas. We will convert existing installations to fully eliminate the CO2 impact of burning coal, improving energy performance via solutions that ramp up operational efficiency in energy production plants and distribution networks, and we will move to coal alternatives, either in the form of substitute fuels (waste, biomass or gas) or by recovering and using waste heat.
For landfill sites, which emit methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) as the stored waste decomposes, we are committed to establishing a standard for methane capturing and flaring, with energy recovery where possible. Our target for 2020 is to capture over 60% of emitted methane.
For activities and services where we have operational control but where decision-making (energy mix, investments, etc.) is shared with the client or fully in their control, we are developing solutions to help our clients avoid GHG emissions by turning increasingly to the circular economy and using renewable energy to produce heat. And to make sure that these solutions are rolled out widely, Veolia has re-engineered its offer of services to include 14 that directly relate to combating the climate emergency.
In its value chain, Veolia leverages its position in the circular economy to create partnerships that allow it to make changes to both upstream and downstream practices.
2. Offsetting emissions that are unavoidable. Veolia is engaged in offsetting in the form of projects that are eligible for carbon credits, such as recovered biogas from landfill sites in South America. We were also involved in setting up the French Low-Carbon label through our involvement in I4CE, paving the way for offsetting within France and making it possible for companies to engage in voluntary offsetting projects. For example, the water contract with SEDIF, the water authority for the Paris region that had 4.6 million customers in 2017, is 100% carbon-neutral.
3. Capturing CO2.
Keeping climate warming to below 2°C requires a fundamental change in growth models. Veolia uses tailored audits for each of its business lines (water management, waste management, production of heat for municipalities and industry) to help its clients transition to a carbon-neutral mindset.