There's a busy month ahead for planet Earth, with the COP 25 in Madrid from 2-13 December and the UICN World Climate Day on 8 December. But beyond the meeting schedule, there is growing acceptance by our institutions, industries and citizens of the urgent need for action on climate disruption. Thales recognises it has a role to play, and is raising the tempo of its environmental protection programme with a new plan of action for a low-carbon future.
The year 2019 will have been one of the hottest on record and has also seen an unprecedented level of mobilisation around the world in the fight against climate change. Young people in particular have been making their voices heard, for example through climate marches in more than 2,000 cities in 120 countries.
Despite a certain reticence — not to say retrograde policies — on the part of certain countries, climate experts, NGOs and official bodies have come together to sound the alarm bells and invite the international community to take concrete steps to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
Since the 2015 Paris Agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2015 (COP21), an increasing number of public and private stakeholders have adopted more proactive policies on environmental protection with a view to limiting global warming to 2°C or less by 2100. The details of their clean, low-carbon strategies vary from sector to sector, but they all share a common goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Many of them are now building climate change mitigation into their strategies to grow sustainably at the same time as addressing environmental issues. They are taking a variety of steps to increase energy efficiency, for example, encourage green mobility, improve infrastructure and interconnections and promote the circular economy.
THE ENERGY-HUNGRY DIGITAL ECONOMY
Public opinion is only now waking up to one of the biggest challenges — the need for "digital sobriety", in other words the need to reconcile the explosion in digital technologies with the imperatives of environmental protection. The figures are remarkable. The digital economy already accounts for 10% of the world's electricity, and if nothing is done, the energy requirements of digital will outstrip world energy production by 2040.
The coming years will be crucial. Users will need to develop more responsible digital habits (remember that we generate more data every two years than the whole of humanity has created since the beginning of time — but how much of it is really useful?). And the technology sector will need to invent solutions, products and systems with low environmental impact by investing in realistic technologies capable of meeting the world's development goals, creating value and delivering tangible environmental benefits.
Immediate action on our carbon footprint
At Thales, we have been working to reduce our environmental footprint for more than 15 years, and the measures introduced since 2008 have already shrunk the carbon footprint of the Group's business activities by 30%. In 2015, alongside 58 other CEOs of major French companies, Patrice Caine signed the Business Proposals for COP21, and reaffirmed the Group's engagement with climate issues with the signing of the French Business Climate Pledge in 2017 and again in 2019.
Subsequent action reduced our carbon intensity and energy intensity by 16% and 11% respectively between 2015 and 2018.
Thales has set its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets using the methodology developed by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). This voluntary initiative offers a way to set targets that are consistent with the goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels set out in the Paris Agreement signed at the COP21 in 2015.
Thales has undertaken to cut its direct greenhouse gas emissions by 40% between now and 2030 through measures affecting internal operations and staff mobility, and to reduce its indirect emissions by 15% in the same timeframe by working with suppliers during the solutions throughout their lifecycle (see full text of Thales's strategy for a low-carbon future).
Coherent targets and strategy
Thales's carbon reduction targets are in line with the Paris Agreement's decarbonisation goal of holding global warming to within 2°C. They are expressed in absolute values, in other words they take the Group's future growth perspectives into account.
Action plans have been drawn up with various multi-disciplinary working groups to build momentum for this strategy through meaningful engagement by employees, customers and suppliers.
Thales is committed to providing innovative, eco-responsible services that will help our customers reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions. The Group is also actively developing solutions and services that reduce the carbon footprint of industry and society as a whole, in particular in the transport and digital sectors.
From flight controls to air traffic management, new functions developed by Thales for the air transport sector over more than 30 years have improved performance while also reducing environmental impact in every phase of the flight.
These include navigational aids that optimise trajectories and the take-off and landing phrases of a flight, and air traffic management systems that make aircraft movements more fluid and reduce the time spent circling airports waiting to land.
As our cities grow, offering sustainable urban mobility and inter-city travel options is one of the most effective ways to control CO2 emissions. Thales helps operators to improve access to transport systems through better intermodal connections, make traffic movements more fluid, reduce energy consumption and shorten travel times to boost network capacity.
In the digital sector, Thales's strategy is to develop solutions that are "energy-sober by design", for example by exploring innovative ways to bring down the energy requirements of data-driven artificial intelligence.
The Group is pursuing a number of revolutionary research programmes, in particular aimed at completely rethinking hardware architectures to increase the storage and processing capacity of a machine while considerably reducing its energy needs. This work involves the use of artificial nano-neurons that emulate the functioning of the human brain.
This strategy for a low-carbon future, and the associated action plans, call for the active engagement of Thales employees, all of whom have a role to play on a day-to-day basis in supporting the Group in its effort to fight climate disruption.