Tesco sets 'high ambition' carbon reduction targets

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Large Tesco store

Large Tesco stores such as this one will have a more carbon-friendly footprint in future

Tesco has announced tougher new carbon reduction targets for its stores and distribution centres, in a move designed to combat climate change.

The targets see Tesco swing behind the UN’s Paris accord goals, amid speculation that US president Donald Trump is considering pulling out of the deal.

Under the new targets, Tesco said it was determined to back the UN commitment to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees.

Tesco said it aimed to source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, with an interim milestone of 65% renewable electricity by 2020.

The switch has already begun in the UK and Thailand, Tesco’s two biggest markets. It will switch to 100% renewable electricity in the UK and Ireland this year.

Emissions from stores and DCs make up more than 85% of the retailer’s direct carbon footprint. The new targets build on Tesco’s climate change goals set out 10 years ago, which were to halve emissions per square foot of stores and DCs by 2020 and become a zero-carbon business by 2050.

Tesco said it had already invested more than £700m in energy and refrigeration efficiency in its stores and DCs since 2007, resulting in reduced emissions by 41% per sq ft of its estate. It was on track to achieve the 50% reduction target, it added.

Its electricity improvements will in part be based on a ramping up of the use of solar energy.

Tesco said it had invested £8mn in Thailand already in on-site solar generation and hoped to grow the figure.

It aimed to expand its renewable electricity mix across the Tesco business to include more than 50% from so-called grid power purchase agreements and on-site generation by 2030.

“To achieve these tougher targets, we aim to source 100% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030,” said Kené Umeasiegbu, head of climate change and sustainable agriculture.

“Our interim milestone is to source 65% renewable electricity by 2020. This switch has already begun in our two biggest markets, the UK and Thailand. From 2017, we will switch to 100% renewable electricity in the UK and Ireland, supported by renewable certificates.”

Tesco said its efficiency improvements had already cut its electricity bill by £200m a year.

Following the Paris climate agreement, it said it had worked with external experts to set new, science-based targets, which would enable it to meet its zero-carbon ambition.

Umeasiegbu added: “Energy efficiency is not only the responsible thing to do, it saves money too. Our 50% ‘relative’ carbon reduction target translates into 10% ‘absolute’ reduction by 2020. This means we’re on track to emit 10% less carbon from our estate in 2020 than we did in 2006.

We are very proud of this achievement and will continue to invest in energy and refrigeration efficiency.”

Myles McCarthy, director of implementation at the Carbon Trust, welcomed Tesco’s moves. He told the FT: “At a time when government commitments on climate change lag significantly behind what is needed to deliver on the Paris agreement, Tesco deserves real credit for being the first corporate to publicly commit to align with a high ambition 1.5C target.”

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