What the Carbon Budget Means for Business

Hurricane Sandy Crisfield

by | Sep 30, 2013

Hurricane Sandy CrisfieldThe world’s carbon budget will be overdrawn in 30 years, says World Resources Institute’s Kelly Levin in a blog post.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published Friday found that to stay below the internationally agreed-upon goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius (compared to pre-industrial levels), no more than 1 trillion (1000 PcG) cumulative tons of carbon can be burned, although that does not include room for methane emissions. The report says we have already burned 531 PcG, or 53 percent of this global carbon budget.

Levin, a WRI senior associate, translates that carbon-based fuel to years and concludes that that given the current growth rate in emissions, the world’s carbon budget will be spent in three decades.

The international community must keep in mind the total carbon budget when designing the next set of emissions-reduction commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Levin writes.

Additionally, setting emissions milestones — such as 2020, 2030 and 2050 targets — will help, especially for the investment community, she says.

Also on Friday, Ceres president Mindy Lubber addressed the carbon budget and what IPCC conclusions mean for insurers and businesses. Her message: stop burning fossil fuels now.

The IPCC report concludes climate change is happening and it’s disrupting all aspects of the global economy, including supply chains, commodity markets and the entire insurance industry, Lubber said. While business momentum to innovate new strategies and products to manage climate risks and opportunities is growing, she says scaling these efforts to slow global warming will require stronger carbon-reducing policies globally.

Hubert Patricot, executive vice president and president at Coca-Cola Enterprises, told Business Green that climate change has had “significant impacts” on Coke’s core business adding that the IPCC report “highlights the reality of climate change to all businesses, but we can’t make a meaningful change alone.” He called on government and business to work together respond to climate change.

Photo Credit: Crisfield, Md., after Hurricane Sandy, Maryland GovPics via Flickr

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