On 4 July at its headquarters in Aubervilliers, Veolia gathered together a panel of experts to check progress on the climate issue. For this Sustainable Development Observatory, the Group's Sustainable Development Director, Pierre Victoria, chaired a discussion attended by David Laurent, Head of Climate and Business Resources for the Environment; Ronan Dantec, Senator for the Loire-Atlantique and President of the NGO Climate Chance; Olivia Saxer, President of the CliMates network; and Patrick Labat, Veolia Senior Executive Vice President, Northern Europe and climate commitment sponsor.
Opening the discussion, Pierre Victoria underlined that two and a half years after the Paris Agreement, some people think it will be impossible to achieve. Even with a low-carbon national strategy, France has only achieved a 1.1% drop in emissions instead of the 1.9% announced. We are now talking about a climate emergency.
However, commitments have been made: 169 countries made commitments following the Climate Agreement, and an almost unanimous position on climate was maintained at the G20 in Osaka. Civil society and young people are increasingly mobilizing. And Paris’ financial sector called to stop investments in coal. The concept of "zero net emissions" is spreading and 54 countries have set a carbon price.
David Laurent presented the results of the study “ZEN 2050 – Design and build a carbon neutral France” published by the EPE to which Veolia contributed. This study explores France’s carbon neutrality in 2050 (in terms of the balance between the emissions in mainland France and absorption in its carbon sinks). ZEN 2050 identifies the conditions for the success of this transition and recommends the actions that should be taken in the short term so that the transformation remains economically and socially feasible, with a strong and immediate commitment from all actors: politicians, companies, citizens.
"Beyond efforts to achieve carbon neutrality, it is expected that quality and living conditions will improve significantly by 2050."
Ronan Dantec presented the annual report of the Climate Chance Observatory that Veolia supported in 2018, which analyses the climate actions that have actually been implemented beyond the commitments. A "meta-report", it reveals trends and describes the most interesting dynamics, with an analysis by sector and geographical area. Finally, it emphasizes the role of coalitions and highlights the tangible results of what works in terms of climate action.
"In order to fight climate-fatalism, which is perhaps worse than climate-scepticism, we need to develop structural measures that build on the results already achieved. Where carbon has a price, the results can be seen. For example, for electricity generation in the United Kingdom, taxation quickly discouraged the use of coal. [...] Sectoral approaches are insufficient because they often do not take into account the global problem. Ease of use also encourages the development of low carbon sectors. Heating networks have a strong impact on carbon neutrality in the territories. On the other hand, there is a less alarmist and more positive approach to climate: all the efforts we make to avoid tons of CO2 will give us time to adapt."
Olivia Saxer, President of the youth climate network CliMates, reaffirmed the importance of education and the mobilization of all stakeholders in order to minimize global warming and its negative impacts.
Taking stock of Veolia's actions, Patrick Labat explained that "Veolia’s purpose is to contribute to human progress by firmly adhering to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in order to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Improving our environmental footprint and that of our customers is at the heart of our business and our business model."
He pointed out that environmental sectors impact 17 of the 53 gigatonnes of CO2 emitted annually, which must be eliminated by 2100 in order to limit global warming to 2°C. And he talked about the Group's actions for the climate:
> In 2015 Veolia's sustainable development commitments set four objectives for 2020:
100 million CO2 equivalent tons of emissions reduced over the period 2015- 2020 on facilities managed by Veolia. Performance in 2018: 63 million tons of CO2 equivalent reduced
50 million CO2 equivalent tons of emissions avoided over the period 2015-2020, through energy, water and material recovery. Performance in 2018: 24 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent avoided for our customers.
Capture more than 60% of methane in the waste disposal facilities we manage by 2020. Performance in 2018: 57.7%
Achieve more than €3.8 billion of circular economy related revenue in 2020. Performance in 2018: 4.8 billion euros
In 2017, Veolia is committed to the initiative Science Based Targets (being studied for an emissions trajectory compatible with 2°C).
> Other Veolia initiatives
Veolia has developed GreenPath to support its customers in the low-carbon transition: this decision support tool makes it possible to calculate the carbon footprint of contracts and projects and choose between several technical solutions on the basis of their environmental performance.
Veolia also implements adaptation solutions for the management of the territories, particularly through the circular economy. For example, the Group recycles 98% of Durban wastewater in South Africa (3.6 million inhabitants) for local industrial use. This reduction in water withdrawals from natural sources makes it possible to provide an additional 40,000 m3 of drinking water every day to the city’s inhabitants.