"The private sector is keenly aware that these changes are likely to have serious consequences for many businesses," says Sophie Siemens, the LECB project coordinator at the Office of Climate Change in Chile. The government is determined to take action. This determination has its roots in Chile's Constitution, which guarantees its citizens the basic right to live in an environment free of pollution and makes the State responsible for safeguarding and preserving nature and the country's environmental heritage. Today, the country has a national climate change strategy (2006), a concrete action plan 2008-2012, and an ambitious international commitment to cut emissions. The LECB-Chile project will further support these efforts through the design of a Low Emission Development Strategy (LEDS).
"A lot of companies know what greenhouse gas monitoring is, what a carbon footprint is, and we have a lot of different initiatives in the country, but no programme was bringing all of these things together," Ms Siemens says. "We wanted to develop a standardized tool for companies and the public sector to calculate their greenhouse gas emissions, so that we could really know the situation and then use the results of this tool as an input for the national programme to manage the emissions that are reported."
As a first step, the LECB project team and the government's climate change office worked with a specialised company to develop a user-friendly, online tool that adheres to international standards (specifically ISO 14064) which recently has been homologized to a Chilean GHG emissions quantification standard.
Now with the tool developed, a critical pilot testing phase recently got underway, involving 43 companies from a wide range of sectors. "The companies' role is to test the tool and to provide feedback for improving it," Ms Siemens says.
Representatives from the participating companies recently attended a series of hands on training sessions to learn to use the tool and already the project team has been receiving valuable feedback. Bringing companies in at such an early stage is proving to be a best practice. "The companies really appreciate that we are including them in the whole process," Ms Siemens says. "It is so important to get their views during this development stage. For example, we have seen that confidentiality of information is a top priority for them," she explains. "This kind of insight really helps in creating a tool that will ultimately suit their needs," she says.
"There are many incentives for companies to get involved," Ms Siemens says. These include the fact that the tool is free, which means that companies can save on expensive consultancy fees to manage their emissions. Likewise, using the tool gives companies the opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competitors by being able to promote that they are taking concrete action on climate change. The project is also exploring a possible ranking system, which would allow leading companies to be publically recognised for their efforts, while encouraging others to do more.
Reducing emissions remains voluntary in Chile. Even so, Mr Rivas says that another important message to companies now is that "understanding and managing their emissions makes good business sense," especially in a country where exports are growing rapidly. This means if companies want to remain competitive, they need to stay in step with the latest rules and regulations regarding greenhouse gas emissions in relation to key trading partners such as the United States and the Euro zone. The new tool will help them do this.
In Chile, though, with the standardized tool now online for the pilot testing with 43 organizations, and a wider roll-out programme under development, the country has taken a critical step towards being able to generate important information that will contribute to its international emissions reduction commitment.
The new tool allows for standardization, structure and a bottom-up approach.