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Rolls Royce navigates path to net-zero emissions by mid-century

Rolls-Royce composite technology

The Rolls-Royce composite technology facility.


Rolls Royce has pledged to become a net-zero carbon business by mid-century, while developing new products and technologies that allow the hard-to-abate aviation, power, shipping and rail industries to decarbonize in the same time frame.

The company last week said it joined the Race to Zero campaign, a new United Nations-backed initiative that aims to draw net-zero commitments from private and state actors in the lead-up the COP26 climate conference, set to be held in November 2021 in Glasgow after a year-long, COVID-19-necessitated postponement.

Rolls Royce announced it will publish a roadmap this year that sets out how it plans to align its business with the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius, including proposals for reaching net-zero emissions across its operations by 2030 and its wider footprint 20 years later.

It will reach the shorter-term target by transitioning its facilities' power on to renewable energy, pioneering closed-loop manufacturing techniques on high-value metals, and developing microgrids to support its estate.

Rolls Royce CEO Warren East said the company was ready to address the "big, complex challenge" posed by meeting tough global climate targets, despite the damage the pandemic had wrought on global transport industries.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has brought immediate and obvious pressures to our industry and to us as a company, but the long-term challenges our world faces have not gone away," he said. "The world on the other side of this pandemic will need the power that we generate to fuel economic recovery. I absolutely believe the call for that power to be more sustainable and net zero will be stronger than ever. Answering that call is a big, complex challenge, and few companies on the planet are better placed than Rolls-Royce to help."

We will use our capabilities to play a leading role in enabling the vital sectors in which we operate achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

East added: "We will use our capabilities to play a leading role in enabling the vital sectors in which we operate achieve net zero emissions by 2050. I believe this ambition will drive our competitiveness for the future."

Nigel Topping, the United Kingdom's high-level climate action champion for COP26, commended Rolls-Royce's new commitments. "Rolls-Royce is positioning itself to meet huge growth in demand for net-zero transport and power," he said. "As a company operating in some of the hardest-to-abate sectors, this a big act of industrial technology leadership."

The jet engine manufacturer has been affected by the coronavirus shutdown of air travel, confirming earlier last week that it would be cutting 3,000 jobs across the U.K., as part of a program of cost savings it is making in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In May, it announced that it would be cutting as many as 9,000 jobs across its operations as it slashed its production numbers for the years to come.

However, the company said today that it still intended to play a leading role in allowing the sectors it operates in to curb their carbon footprints. A sweeping program of low-carbon research and development will focus on improving the energy efficiency of its engines; collaborating with the fossil fuel industry to boost the availability of alternative lower carbon fuels; and developing small, affordable modular nuclear power stations able to meet future low-carbon energy needs quickly.

The company, which also joined the Business Ambition for 1.5 campaign today, also reiterated its previous commitment to play a pioneering role in the nascent electric aviation industry.

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