Tue | Mar 26, 2019

Editorial | PwC carbon initiative should be followed

Published:Thursday | March 14, 2019 | 12:14 AM

PwC Jamaica’s disclosure that it has joined its global partners on an initiative to radically reduce its carbon footprint is a significant development, which, hopefully, will be an example for other firms, perhaps leading to a larger private-sector project.

Despite the handful of doubters, including America’s President, Donald Trump, it is settled science that global warming is real, and that human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels, with its release of carbon dioxide, has been the main driver behind rising temperatures over the past century and a half.

There are real consequences of a warmer planet. A hotter earth means rising sea levels, which, for a small-island state like Jamaica, is existential. Most of our habitable land space could be claimed by the sea. Jamaica, therefore, has a stake not only in a debate on global warming, but in an actual reversal of the trend. It is an issue not only for the Government.

In that regard, the announcement by PwC Jamaica of its commitment “to offset our air-travel emissions and energy consumption by 100 per cent” has ­resonance, although it would benefit from better particulars to clarify what, precisely, the company is committing, and the data that underpins the enterprise.

LOW CONTRIBUTION

In neither absolute nor relative terms is Jamaica a great contributor to global warming. For instance, the Americans, from fuel combustion, let off nearly five billion tonnes of CO2 annually, or more than 15 tonnes per person. China’s fossil-fuel emission is over nine billion tonnes, or six and a half tones per person.

In recent years, Jamaica’s per capita emission has hovered at around three tonnes, and the Government is committed to its reduction. By this year, around 20 per cent of the island’s electricity generation will be supplied by renewables, pushing it well ahead of its timeline for the 2030 target of 30 per cent. Indeed, the Government now says it wants to have half of the country’s electricity generation from renewables by that time.

Whether the 50 per cent is achievable is not clear, but it is not something that anyone is likely to dismiss. For, apart from the big investments in wind and solar to supply the national grid, firms and individuals have been converting some, or all, of their power consumption to renewables which, PwC Jamaica suggests, is among its undertakings.

“While our carbon impact here in the Caribbean is low, it’s still important for us to take action to reduce our absolute carbon emissions, switching to renewables and offsetting our air travel,” said the auditing firm’s Jamaica managing partner, Leighton McKnight. So, PwC Jamaica’s staff is likely to telecommute more, and jump into cars or on to planes less to engage clients and partners. And when they consume energy, less of it will be from fossil fuels.

Globally, PwC estimated that last year it was responsible for emitting 592,293 tonnes of greenhouse gases, which was a four per cent decline on the previous year. Each employee averaged 3.19 tonnes of emission, a fall of 14 per cent. Renewables accounted for 60 per cent of its electricity consumption, an increase of nine per cent.

It is this kind of data, which must be verifiable, that we look forward to from PwC Jamaica, hoping it will catalyse other companies to similar initiatives. Perhaps it is a programme that the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica should promote, including incentivising the project by offering annual awards to top achievers in specific categories.