Climate change is real
But what’s the connection between carbon dioxide and climate change? The increased carbon concentration in the atmosphere causes temperatures to rise – which is how, in just over 100 years, the average global temperature has risen by 1.1 °C compared to pre-industrial times. This increasingly rapid temperature increase is upsetting the global climate balance with serious implications for nature as a whole – and thereby for human life, too. Clear signs of this include increasingly frequent extreme weather events such as storms, droughts and floods.
It’s not too late
With the Paris Climate Agreement, which was adopted at the 2015 UN Climate Conference COP 21, the global community set itself a goal within which it’s possible to rise to the challenges of climate change. At its core, the agreement is aimed at limiting global warming to well below 2 °C compared to the pre-industrial age, with efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 °C. This is intended to mitigate the detrimental consequences of climate change and prevent any unmanageable consequences.
For the first time in history, 195 countries thus consented to a universally valid and legally binding agreement on climate protection. The agreement stipulates that during the second half of this century, the quantity of climate-damaging gases emitted may no longer exceed those that can be extracted from the atmosphere by sinks (e.g., moors or forests). This will be achieved primarily by the global economy significantly reducing its consumption of fossil fuels – including coal, oil and gas – and thereby “de-carbonizing” itself.
Climate protection requires a joint effort
Humanity is currently producing climate-relevant greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, all around the clock. Yet, there are major differences between the various regions of the world: Statistically, each US citizen is responsible for an average of 16 metric tons of carbon emissions per year, whereas the per capita figure for India is 2 metric tons. This is due to the enormous differences in living standards and consumer behavior as well as the types of energy sources making up the respective electricity mix.
On a global average, one person currently produces around 5 metric of carbon emissions per year. To reach the targets agreed upon in the Paris Climate Agreement, every person on the planet would need to reduce their personal carbon footprint to an average of 1.5 metric per year. With this in mind, it’s worth taking a look at the sectors in which most greenhouse gas emissions are generated:
Electricity and heat production: 25 %
Agriculture and forestry: 24 %
Industry: 21 %
Transport and mobility: 14 %
Other types of energy generation (except electricity and heat production): 10 %
Residential: 6 %
https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_full.pdf, p. 9
Carbon-neutral by 2050
The transformation of society is long since underway. In this context, the term decarbonization refers to a shift toward a way of living and doing business that gradually but permanently reduces the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – with the long-term goal of avoiding them altogether.
Individuals, organizations and companies are pursuing this goal – along with entire alliances of states: The European Union, for example, has launched its “European Green Deal.” The objective: for Europe to no longer release net greenhouse gas emissions and to decouple economic growth from resource use by 2050. Thus, the previous target of cutting the European Union’s carbon emissions by 40 % by 2030 compared to 1990 is to be tightened to a reduction of 50 to 55 %. For this purpose, EU member states are to adjust their climate protection plans accordingly by 2023. This is to be achieved through a growth strategy that promotes a clean, circular economy. However, it’s not just companies that are to benefit from this, but every individual, too: through renewable energies, appropriately designed means of transportation and buildings, healthier food, sustainable agriculture and a better quality of air, water and soil.
Transport and mobility
According to calculations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the transport and mobility sector currently accounts for around 14 % of global greenhouse gas emissions. This includes both the transportation of goods and the mobility of people – whether by air, rail, water or road. Which means that Volkswagen is part of the problem; with its products, the Group shares responsibility for climate change.
This is why Volkswagen seeks to contribute to the solution at least to the degree that it is part of the problem, while decisively helping to shape the transformation toward a carbon-neutral economy. To this end, the Group is developing appropriate solutions and products. By engaging in constructive dialog with other manufacturers, suppliers and partners, along with the sphere of politics and NGOs, Volkswagen wants to make certain that decarbonization doesn’t just succeed in the transport and mobility sector in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, but in all sectors.
Volkswagen is convinced that climate protection can only succeed if everyone makes their contribution.
A clear commitment
In 2020, the Volkswagen Group’s Chairman of the Management Board, together with CEOs of several other European companies, explicitly committed to the EU’s Green Deal and its climate protection targets. This CEO Alliance is being developed into an action alliance that brings together corporate strategies, industries and companies on their journey toward making Europe carbon neutral. The companies involved have set themselves the goal of investing more than €100 billion in their decarbonization roadmaps over the next few years and collaborating across sectors for climate protection.
The transportation of goods and the mobility of people currently account for some 14 % of global greenhouse gas emissions. As one of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers and mobility providers, Volkswagen is aware of the responsibility this entails. More specifically, during their life cycle, Volkswagen products alone (passenger cars and light commercial vehicles) are responsible for around 1 % of all worldwide carbon emissions.
Volkswagen intends to be a net carbon neutral company by 2050. Along this road, we have set ourselves an ambitious interim goal: by 2030, Volkswagen aims to cut carbon emissions of its passenger cars and light commercial vehicles by 30 % compared to 2018 purely through reduction measures as well as switching to renewable energy and without any offsetting at all. In addition, a separate target for trucks and buses aims for a 20 % reduction in carbon emissions. The independent Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) has confirmed that these climate targets meet the conditions for limiting global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius.” This means that if other companies and the international community set themselves similar targets, collaboration becomes possible for mitigating the consequences of climate change.
The Volkswagen Group is intent on playing a pioneering role in its industry. Which is why its targets exceed legal stipulations in terms of, for instance, carbon emissions from its new car fleet. Moreover, Volkswagen is actively promoting the switchover to renewable energies along the entire life cycle.
Facts and figures
The Volkswagen Group and the use of its products caused around 364 million metric tons of carbon in 2021. Of this, 4.7 million metric tons were emitted directly from production processes, and around 2.4 million metric tons of carbon from purchased energy.
Source: Sustainability Report 2021
To reach its climate targets, Volkswagen must reduce the carbon emissions associated with its products over their entire life cycle. The Group uses life cycle assessments (LCAs) to meticulously identify and reduce carbon emissions. Volkswagen involves its suppliers in this process, too. Thanks to the Decarbonization Index (DKI), it possesses a measurement tool for delivering figures on the carbon emissions of a vehicle over its entire life cycle – i.e., from raw material extraction to production and use all the way to recycling. In 2021, the DKI averaged 45.9 metric tons of carbon dioxide per vehicle, a figure which, by 2030, is expected to decrease by 30 % compared to 2018. Most of the carbon emissions associated with cars occur while the car is being driven. Therefore, reducing these emissions is crucial to meeting our targets. Volkswagen’s new electric cars, including the ID.3 and ID.4, are key levers to reaching these targets.
Hierarchy of measures
On the road to carbon neutrality, Volkswagen is pursuing a clear hierarchy of measures: Its top priority includes measures to avoid or reduce carbon emissions. In second place are measures the Group is using to gradually switch its energy supply over to renewable energies along its entire value chain and throughout all stages of a vehicle’s lifecycle. Finally, unavoidable carbon emissions are offset by means of climate protection projects that meet the highest international standards, such as the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards (CCB Standards) and the Gold Standard (CDM). Volkswagen has developed a comprehensive scoring model to ensure the quality of its climate compensation projects. They’re evaluated in terms of standard compliance, credibility, site selection, project size as well as contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
For Volkswagen, this hierarchy of measures not only represents a specific order for reaching its goals. The Group also wants to make absolutely certain that lowering carbon emissions and switching over to renewable energy sources take top priority over offsetting measures. However, Volkswagen is also sure that offsetting will continue to be necessary on its journey toward leaving behind a climate-neutral carbon footprint. Yet, to do so, the respective projects must meet comprehensive sustainability criteria and be selected with great care.