In 2015, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) was established to help companies set realistic and effective emissions reduction targets that can prevent the worst impacts of climate change. These targets are considered science-based if they are in line with current climate science and the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
The Paris-based group, Air Liquide, produces, markets and sells industrial gases worldwide, including liquid nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide and oxygen, and is one of the world's leading industrial, medical and environmental companies. As part of an initial analysis, the considerable carbon footprint was classified as a risk factor. This led the DNB Renewable Energy team to prioritise Air Liquide in view of our commitment to a science-based net zero target.
We already met with the company in November 2021 and May 2022. From the discussions and the additional written responses, we were able to get an initial picture of the CO₂ emissions and the targets for a reduction:
→ Air Liquide has committed to reduce its absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions by 33 per cent by 2035 and to reach net zero by 2050. It includes not only CO₂ but all greenhouse gases. The Science Based Targets Initiative certified the 2035 target as being well below 2 degrees Celsius. It should be noted, however, that there is currently no specific regulatory framework for industrial gases. Air Liquide is, however, represented in the working group supporting the SBTi in developing such a structure.
→ Management has recognised that a significant share of renewable energy is necessary to reduce its Scope 2 emissions. These must be equally available, accessible and affordable. Due to its market position as a large energy consumer, Air Liquide signs power purchase agreements and, in certain cases, facilitates the development of large-scale renewable energy projects. It also provides visibility to renewable energy producers, as it often signs 15-year contracts to guarantee the supply of electricity from renewable sources. Air Liquide is currently negotiating a major contract in South Africa (600 GW, to be expanded to 900 MW). For this to happen, the political framework conditions must be right, including taxation, subsidies and government involvement. Air Liquide is also considering a carbon budget per region to assess how many emissions it can afford in each region.
→ Compensation is envisaged for the elimination of residual emissions - after all options for reducing emissions have been exhausted. Air Liquide emphasises, however, that a decision on the form and prices of the offsets is currently still a long way off. In our view, the company should have taken this into account when setting its target and clearly outlined its plans. Similarly, we would have liked Air Liquide to develop more of its own expertise - for example in carbon capture and storage - to avoid emissions.
→ Air Liquide also emphasises that it will not include Scope 3 in its target because it is not well defined. However, it supports customers and suppliers, some of whom are pursuing their own net zero commitments. We would have liked Air Liquide to take a more active role in addressing Scope 3, for example by actively working with suppliers.
→ One area Air Liquide has focused on recently is lobbying. Recently, the company published its first Climate Charter. In addition, the group wants to define measures in case inconsistencies in climate policy are identified. Where possible, all public statements on important issues are made available online.
→ The company's strategy in hydrogen and carbon capture and storage was also discussed. Although Air Liquide is working to develop these markets, it faces risks from new entrants such as Plug Power. The company is well positioned thanks to its locations. We believe that Air Liquide can profitably use its existing infrastructure in the future.