IBM today is reaffirming its support for the Paris Climate Agreement and stating clearly how we will continue our decades-long work to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Our call for an international agreement on this issue is more than a decade old, and we first voiced our support for the Paris Agreement in 2015 when it was negotiated.
Why IBM Stands Firm in Supporting the Paris Climate Agreement
An Editorial by Wayne Balta, Vice President, Environmental Affairs, IBM
IBM has been one of industry’s earliest — and unambiguous — leaders on the subject of climate change with a commitment that goes back decades. Ten years ago, we declared that climate change was one of the most critical global environmental challenges facing the planet. We published our position externally in 2007, stating “IBM recognizes climate change is a serious concern that warrants meaningful action on a global basis to stabilize the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases. IBM believes all sectors of society, the economy, and governments worldwide must participate in solutions to climate change.”
Since then, we’ve demonstrated our commitment through our business initiatives, voluntary goals, results and disclosures. Why be so outspoken? We’ve long recognized that doing what is good for the environment is also good for business.
We have had an annual worldwide energy conservation goal since 1996. We established our first operational CO2 emissions reduction goal in 2000 when we helped the World Wildlife Fund create its Climate Savers Program. We have produced a record of significant results including conserving over 7.2 million MWh of electricity and avoiding over 4.4 million metric tons of CO2 emissions since 1990. We can report results like these for over 25 years because that’s how long we have been measuring and managing our energy and climate programs.
In 2015, we joined 80 other U.S. companies in signing the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, which called on the United States to conclude a forward-looking international climate change agreement in Paris, and which also committed to three goals which, by now, IBM has already achieved:
- Reduce CO2 emissions associated with IBM’s energy consumption 35% by year-end 2020 against base year 2005 adjusted for acquisitions and divestitures. (IBM achieved 38.1% at year-end 2016.)
- Procure electricity from renewable sources for 20% of IBM’s annual electricity consumption by 2020. (IBM achieved 21.5% at year-end 2016. If we also count renewable energy within the grid mix IBM receives, then 40.1% of IBM’s energy use across its managed spaces came from renewable sources.)
- Achieve annual energy conservation savings equal to 3.5% of IBM’s total energy use. (IBM achieved 5.3% during 2016.)
Participants in this pledge include some of America’s most-widely known and respected businesses, and we today encourage all of them to reaffirm their commitment to achieving the goals set forth.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and The Climate Registry have recognized IBM’s climate protection efforts with five Climate Leadership Awards. We are the first recipient to win an award in each of the four categories recognizing individual organizations.
IBM is bringing our environmental leadership to bear for the benefit of our clients, too.
IBM’s Green Horizons initiative is one example of how IBM is helping clients and thereby increasing the scale of IBM’s expertise. Working with the municipal government of Beijing and an ecosystem of partners, IBM is providing one of the world’s most advanced air quality forecasting and decision support systems. We’re able to generate high-resolution, 1km-by-1km pollution forecasts 72 hours in advance and pollution trend predictions up to 10 days into the future. We do this by applying IBM’s advanced machine learning and Internet of Things technologies to ingest and learn from vast amounts of data, constantly improving in accuracy. Data comes from not only weather stations, satellites, and ground sensors but also social media.
But Green Horizons doesn’t just focus on air quality — it also addresses renewable energy. IBM’s Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting (HyREF) Solution combines weather prediction and data analytics to accurately forecast the availability of highly variable sources of renewable energy. This technology enables utility companies to forecast the amount of energy which will be directed onto the grid or stored, helping to ensure that as little as possible is wasted. The system has already been rolled out to 30 wind, solar and hydro power sources.
As another example, the Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO) started a partnership with IBM Research to accelerate the integration of renewable energy into the electricity grid and improve grid resiliency. Leveraging Deep Thunder™, IBM Research’s hyperlocal weather model, the utility developed an automated renewable energy forecasting application for solar and wind power. Deep Thunder delivers 95 percent accuracy in solar-power forecasting and 93 percent accuracy in wind-power forecasting.
Of course, real change requires more than the work we do here at IBM. Climate change is an international problem that requires an international solution, and we believe it is important for the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, IBM supported — and still supports — U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement. This agreement requires all participating countries to put forward their best efforts on climate change as determined by each country. IBM believes that it is easier to lead outcomes by being at the table, as a participant in the agreement, rather than from outside it.
IBM takes our commitment to the environment seriously, and will continue to focus on ways we can reduce our own operational impact on climate as well as helping our clients do likewise.
For more about IBM and the environment, go here.
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The information, views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum or the United Nations Environment Programme.