Net Zero Cities: Private sector role key to meeting Paris goals

With the corporate sector responsible for 70% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, it stands to reason that the climate accords included in the Paris Agreement cannot be met unless the private sector steps up to do its part.

The Paris Agreement, signed in 2016, sets a goal of limiting worldwide climate warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and to pursue a limit of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Companies are stepping up to help, even though in some cases such actions may place them at a disadvantage if their competitors choose not to participate, according to panelists at the Beyond Paris segment of BizWest’s Net Zero Cities event Wednesday.

Companies need to consider “profitability now and in the future,” when regulation may replace voluntary compliance with the goals, said Colette Crouse, director of client services for Optera, a Boulder software company recently renamed from Point380 LLC. 

Taking steps to reduce emissions and to move toward net zero need not be all expense, the panelists said. Reducing energy consumption, for example, saves money with some of the steps — lighting changes, for example — having a return on investment within two years.

Zac Swank, business sustainability coordinator for PACE Boulder, a Boulder County and city of Boulder program that helps businesses reach sustainability targets, noted that multiple government agencies from federal and state to local governments have set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. Strategies to meet those targets are well underway, with electrical utilities among the first to respond by adding solar and wind energy sources to their generation mix and announcing planned shutdowns of coal-fired power plants.

Other strategies to be employed include working with the oil and gas industry to reduce methane leaks and limit flaring. Two other major pieces of the plan to reduce greenhouse gases include improving building energy efficiency and electrifying more of the transportation network, Swank said.

Rideshare company Lyft Inc. plans to play its part by converting its fleet of vehicles to 100% electric by 2030, according to John Walker, sustainability policy manager for the company.

The issue for Lyft, Walker said, is that it doesn’t own the vehicles that operate under its logo.

“Transportation is the No. 1 emitter [of greenhouse gases]. The power [utility] sector is cleaning up, but transportation has a long way to go,” Walker said. The dispersed nature of the millions of vehicles, most under private ownership, makes the challenge difficult.

“A new [gasoline powered] Camry bought today will still be operating in 15 years,” he said. But with Lyft, vehicles tend to turn over every three or four years, so it may be possible to convert the fleet in a shorter amount of time. Conversion of the fleet to electric vehicles will save drivers billions of dollars, he said.

Likewise, rental-car companies, which buy the most cars in the nation and change them out every three or four years, could also have a major impact on greenhouse-gas emissions if they electrify their fleets, Walker said. Then, when rental electric cars are turned over to the used-car market, they’ll help to drive down prices for average consumers. 

Conversion to more widespread EV usage will also require some government intervention. “We need charging stations in every garage,” he said.

Drivers with access to fast charging report high satisfaction with the EV technology, but those with slower charging say their experience is less satisfying than with gasoline-powered cars, Walker said.

“If riders have ridden in an electric Lyft vehicle in Denver, they are 37% more likely to buy an electric vehicle,” Walker said, using data that Lyft has collected.

© 2021 BizWest Media LLC

With the corporate sector responsible for 70% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, it stands to reason that the climate accords included in the Paris Agreement cannot be met unless the private sector steps up to do its part.

The Paris Agreement, signed in 2016, sets a goal of limiting worldwide climate warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and to pursue a limit of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Companies are stepping up to help, even though in some cases such actions may place them at a disadvantage if their competitors choose not to participate, according to panelists at the Beyond Paris segment of BizWest’s Net Zero Cities event Wednesday.

Companies need to consider “profitability now and in the future,” when regulation may replace voluntary compliance with the goals, said Colette Crouse, director of client services for Optera, a Boulder software company recently renamed from Point380 LLC. 

Taking steps to reduce emissions and to move toward net zero need not be all expense, the panelists said. Reducing energy consumption, for example, saves money with some of the steps — lighting changes, for example — having a return on investment within two years.

Zac Swank, business sustainability coordinator for PACE Boulder, a Boulder County and city of Boulder program that helps businesses reach sustainability targets, noted that multiple government agencies from federal and state to local governments have set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. Strategies to meet those targets…