In the first installment of our Countdown to COP26 Series, discussing the goals and importance of the the 26th annual UN Climate Change Conference, we spoke with Edison Energy’s CEO Oded J. Rhone about the roadmap to achieving net zero emissions. Click here to learn more about Oded’s background.
In November, the UK, in partnership with Italy, will host what many believe to be the world’s “last best chance” to stop the most detrimental impacts of climate change. The COP26 summit will bring more than 190 world leaders to Scotland, along with tens of thousands of government representatives, businesses, NGOs and citizens to help accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Both Edison International and Edison Energy will be among them.
COP 21, held in Paris in 2015, proved to be a watershed moment in the fight against climate change, with participating countries agreeing to work together to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to drafting plans to reduce their emissions, also pledging to return every five years with an updated, more ambitious plan. That time is now.
But the commitments laid out in Paris did not come close to the targeted reductions, according to the U.N., and time is running out. The decade out to 2030 will be critical.
“The road to net zero is complicated,” said Oded Rhone, CEO of Edison Energy. “There are a lot of levers to pull as you think about moving towards net zero, anywhere from energy efficiency and behind the meter, to purchasing cleaner power, electrifying fleets and buildings, and industrial processes. There is complexity to that. We try to simplify that complexity for clients and show them clear choices they can make in terms of addressing their carbon footprint, but also looking at the cost.”
“As a society, we have to lower the cost of addressing carbon, and that roadmap is going to impact our clients who, to a large extent, want to be leaders rather than followers. Giving them insights is going to be critical for that. Understanding how we are going to reach 1.5 degrees is going to be really important.”
With a major uptick in stakeholder expectations around corporate sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) targets, Edison Energy has continued to grow its sustainability service line to help companies rise to the challenge.
Launched last year, Edison’s Sustainability Advisory practice offers an additional way for clients to set and achieve their energy and sustainability goals. Through this practice, Edison helps clients understand sustainability-related risks, identify opportunities to reduce costs, and develop and execute their corporate sustainability targets.
“As organizations set ambitious targets aligned with the goals of Paris, some are struggling to understand exactly how to get there,” Rhone said. “Our sustainability practice is focused on helping define their roadmaps to net zero, using our expertise with renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation, and even thermal to enable economy-wide decarbonization. We also have to understand where the energy industry is going from a policy perspective so we can share that with our clients. Edison International and Edison Energy are helping commercial and industrial clients navigate this complex arena, exactly in line with what COP26 is trying to do. So being part of that discussion in Glasgow is critical for us in terms of understanding and pushing everyone towards being a key part of that trend. We all want to reduce our carbon footprint, but we also understand that there is a cost to it and there is a tradeoff in terms of how many government subsidies we’re going to have.”
Figures from the Climate Group and CDP show that RE100 members have a combined demand for renewable electricity of 334 TWh – more than the 326TWh used to power the entire UK last year – and are set to save CO2 emissions equivalent to the burning of more than 118 million tonnes of coal per year.
“It’s not just governmental policies and pronouncements that come from the COP or other governmental agencies–it’s society that’s pushing corporates towards sustainability,” Rhone said. “That can come from employees, customers, and investors. That’s a trend that we are seeing. Our clients have to think about those issues, and it’s better to start doing that early rather than having to play major catch-up later on. For companies that have yet to take action, we’re sharing that and giving them the insights, and hoping to help them start on their journey. It is a journey, and it requires executive attention and financial resources.”
Approximately 70 percent of the world’s economy is now committed to reaching net zero emissions. More than 80 countries have formally updated their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), while all G7 countries have announced new NDC targets that place them on the path to net zero emissions by 2050.
To deliver on these targets, countries will need to accelerate the phase-out of coal, curtail deforestation, encourage investment in renewables, and speed up the shift to electric vehicles.
“What support will governments give to support transport electrification, particularly when it comes to major fleets and cross-country transportation?” Rhone said. “We’re advising clients in transport electrification to let them know what the infrastructure is going to look like in five, 10 years from now so that when they start planning their fleets, they know what support they’re going to have in terms of the country’s infrastructure. That goes for both our U.S., EU, and international clients. I think the other critical point that we’ll have to address as a society is building electrification. I see that as a future place where Edison can play a key role.”
Environmental justice will also take center stage at this year’s COP26 summit, with the international community expressing its commitment to addressing climate change impacts across the world’s most vulnerable populations. Plans to mobilize funds to improve early warning systems and build resilient infrastructure and agriculture are currently underway.
“We’re seeing interest in environmental justice,” Rhone said. “How do we build this new economy in a way that supports local communities and on an equitable basis? I am really proud to say that most of our clients want to be leaders in how they can support renewable power, support local communities, and provide environmental justice into everything that they’re doing carbon-wise. That’s where we can play a role and give our clients a lot of insights on how they can do that. I’m hoping that COP26 gives our employee base more insights overall on where this planet is heading, which is part of why participating is so important to us.”