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Disney, Microsoft and Shell opt for self-imposed carbon emissions taxes

March 27, 2013

Disney, Microsoft and Shell opt for self-imposed carbon emissions taxes

Although most of the world’s governments have declined to put a price on carbon emissions, a handful of global companies, including Disney, Microsoft and Shell, have chosen to act on their own. They have established internal carbon prices in an effort to reduce emissions, promote energy efficiency and encourage the use of cleaner sources of power, just as government tax or cap-and-trade program would.

At Disney, the carbon tax seems to be working, by driving incremental efficiency measures that might otherwise have been overlooked and by raising funds to buy carbon offsets. Since 2009, when the tax was imposed, the company’s engineers have changed thermostat set points, installed light sensors and efficient bulbs, increased the efficiency of chillers, heat exchangers and pumps, and shut down lights on park icons when the parks are closed. Even with the increase in Disney’s absolute emissions brought by the addition of two new ships for its vacation cruise business, the tax collected has enabled Disney to invest in a variety of certified forest-carbon projects and taking those carbon offsets into account, Disney’s 2012 emissions have been cut in half from a 2006 baseline.

Shell’s carbon price was established “not to deliver major change but to demonstrate the possible” by showing that pricing carbon could drive change in a cost-effective way, according to David Hone, a climate change adviser at Shell. Shell has set the highest carbon price, about $40, but no money actually changes hands inside the company. Instead, the price is used to guide capital allocation, with the oil industry’s long-term investment horizons in mind.

For its part, Microsoft promised to achieve net zero emissions during the current fiscal year, which ends in July, for its data centers, software labs, offices and employee air travel, by increasing efficiency and purchasing renewable energy. Microsoft works with a company called Sterling Planet to buy certified renewable energy certificates (RECs) and direct carbon offsets.

Read more at The Guardian.

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