From pledges to plans to achieve net zero
This article is sponsored by Ball Corporation.
This is the decisive decade to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid catastrophic climate change. We have the tools and knowledge required to do so, and the decisions we make now can help build a sustainable world and secure a livable future.
Since concrete, effective action is absolutely critical, it comes as no surprise that United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is demanding that non-state entities go beyond mere pledges and deliver credible, transparent and accountable climate transition plans. To that end, the High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities released its guidelines in a report aptly named “Integrity Matters” at COP27.
Ball Corporation’s recently released Climate Transition Plan follows the UN recommendations and principles to the best of the company’s ability, outlining a realistic and robust pathway to transform Ball into a fully circular and decarbonized business.
The plan aims to show that reaching net zero can be a credible goal grounded in science and reality, even while prioritizing deep emissions reductions across the value chain well before 2050 without relying on offsets. Instead of a headline-grabbing, long-term net zero pledge, Ball has committed to achieving a 55 percent reduction in absolute Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 2030. With packaging representing up to 40 percent of Ball customers’ value chain emissions, Ball believes the plan is also instrumental for companies such as Coca-Cola, AB InBev, Red Bull, Unilever and P&G to reach their decarbonization goals.
Importantly, Ball’s approach is circular, not linear. The environmental benefits of creating a strong circular system come from displacing primary resource production and ensuring that recycled materials are used to create new, high-quality products instead of using virgin resources. The majority of Ball’s emissions are driven by purchases of energy-intensive primary aluminum.
However, not only is aluminum infinitely recyclable, but recycled aluminum uses just 5 percent of the energy required for primary production. Hence, half of Ball’s planned emissions reductions by 2030 relate to circularity, which includes achieving 90 percent recycling rates and, with that, enabling 85 percent recycled content in its products. Systemic circularity is more challenging and expensive for other packaging materials to achieve in the near-, medium- and long-term.
Additionally, Ball’s targets and pathway to 2030 rely on existing and mature technologies, best practices and proven policies. The plan outlines three technically feasible, economically viable and socially acceptable scenarios that account for a degree of uncertainty and the potential for change along the journey, particularly related to the deployment of new, carbon-free technologies to achieve full decarbonization by 2050.
In this sense, Ball advocates for positive climate action and is an active member in leading coalitions of climate-progressive companies. For example, Ball works with industries and governments to create strong standards and ensure a level playing field for ambitious net zero pledges to further de-risk a speedy transition and maximize the economic benefits of rigorous net zero alignment. With unprecedented and candid transparency, Ball’s Climate Transition Plan shows how its transition pathway and advocacy positioning are fully aligned. Ball is disclosing its position on key industry issues as well as its activity and membership in associations and organizations, for which the plan follows the Global Standard on Responsible Climate Lobbying as much as possible.
Industry alignment, collaboration and systemic transformation are essential to the plan, and Ball is a strong supporter of action-driven value chain mobilization around pioneering commitments to unlock the untapped potential of emerging technologies needed for net zero. As a member of the World Economic Forum’s First Movers Coalition, a global initiative harnessing the purchasing power of companies to drive decarbonization, Ball has committed to purchasing 10 percent of primary aluminum annually as low-carbon aluminum by 2030.
This kind of collaboration also leads to better conversations with governments to effectively match developments in technology with improvements in policymaking around a range of subjects, from tightening policies on recycling to co-investing in research and development.
The key lever in Ball’s plan is advancing circularity. This relies on a combination of Extended Producer Responsibility regulations, which mandate businesses to collect and recycle, and modern Deposit Return Systems (Recycling Refund Systems for U.S.), which allow for near-100-percent collection and recycling of beverage packaging. By leveraging existing policies and current technologies, reaching 90 percent recycling rates is possible — this will enable aluminum beverage packaging to contain an average of 85 percent recycled content by 2030.
Governments also have a key role to play to encourage the decarbonization of primary aluminum refining and smelting. The Middle East has an opportunity to contribute, using its plentiful solar power potential. China is shutting some coal-powered refining operations and opening new plants in regions abundant with hydropower. The European Union’s proposed Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism is a wake-up call to aluminum suppliers looking to export into the single market. Aside from developing targeted climate policies, governments may also need to provide direct financial support, incentives, de-risking mechanisms and subsidy schemes to accelerate the development of new, carbon-free technologies, such as redesigning the aluminum smelting process with inert anodes.
Ball hopes that the Climate Transition Plan sparks dialogue within the aluminum industry. We look forward to partnering further with suppliers and clients to advance circularity and technology innovations. Achieving the plans laid out here will not be easy, but they will be possible with the right mix of technologies, government support and supply chain collaboration. We can all learn from each other and we must work together. The future of our businesses and the planet depends on it.