Ambition Zero Carbon: AstraZeneca targets carbon-negativity by 2030

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has pledged to become carbon-negative across its entire value chain by 2030, with an interim ambition of reaching net-zero operational carbon emissions from operations by 2025.

Pictured: AstraZeneca's R&D hub in China 

Pictured: AstraZeneca's R&D hub in China 

Announced today (22 January), the new ambitions built on AstraZeneca’s existing science-based targets and net-zero pledge. The business claims it will bring forward its previous decarbonisation plans, developed in 2015, by more than a decade.

In order to meet its new 2025 target, AstraZeneca will switch to 100% renewable electricity and heat across its global operations and a fully electric global road transport fleet within the next five years. It is also aiming to double energy productivity against a 2015 baseline by 2025. Residual operational emissions will be addressed through offsetting, in the form of third-party-verified reforestation and afforestation projects.

Meeting the 2030 target, however, will require AstraZeneca to go beyond its direct (Scope 1) and power-related (Scope 2) power-related emissions. The company has, therefore, pledged to invest in carbon reduction and carbon capture projects at organisations across its supply chain. Recognising that a large proportion of its upstream emissions is accounted for by inhalers used by patients with respiratory conditions, AstraZeneca is developing a “next-generation” alternative which will generate 90-99% fewer emissions per pump by 2025.

AstraZeneca has pledged to invest a total of $1bn to achieve its 2030 target, with the fund set to be allocated across all above-listed projects.

The firm confirmed that it will need to go beyond its own value chain to deliver carbon-negativity, however. To that end, it will collaborate with governments and NGOs to plant 50 million trees over the next decade. The aim is for the plants to sequester more carbon annually than AstraZeneca will emit once it has completed internal and value chain reduction work.

“Since 2015, we have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions from operations by almost a third and our water consumption by almost one fifth - but now is the time to act even faster and redouble our efforts,” AstraZeneca’s chief executive officer Pascal Soriot said.

Leading by example

Soriot also detailed hopes for the new ambitions, badged as “Ambition Zero Carbon”, to “inspire collaboration at a global level to effect policy change”.

Around 40% of the world's annual GDP now derives from nations and regions that are discussing or have set legislative net-zero emissions targets, to be achieved by 2050 at the latest.

These policy changes to date can broadly be traced back to the IPCC’s landmark report on global temperature increase of 1.5C vs 2C, which concluded that global emissions will need to reach net-zero by 2050 if the Paris Agreement’s more ambitious trajectory is to be realised.

Following a year of unprecedented climate activism off the back of the report, several organisations are beginning to look beyond net-zero or carbon-neutrality, towards carbon-negativity or net-positivity. Carbon-negative targets have recently been announced by the likes of Drax and Microsoft, while Interface has been working towards the aim since 2016.

Sarah George  



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