(Bloomberg) — General Electric Co. vowed to curb the greenhouse gases produced by the use of its products—including thousands of fossil-fueled turbines and jet engines in operation around the world—in a bid to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
The new goal, announced in GE’s annual sustainability report on Monday, signals that the industrial giant plans to go beyond an earlier pledge to make its own operations carbon neutral by 2030. The announcement includes no specific targets or concrete details about how it will achieve those emissions cuts, however, nor has the company yet quantified the reductions necessary to achieve that goal, though it said it would do so in the future.
In the report, GE said that its new “ambition” is a first step toward addressing the emissions from its products and supply chain, known as Scope 3. (Scopes 1 and 2 are related to production and operations.)
“We are particularly aware of the engineering challenges still to be solved to make the ambition of net zero a reality,” Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp said in a letter to shareholders released with the report. “We plan to continue developing and to communicate details about more specific, nearer term GE greenhouse gas reduction metrics and targets that include Scope 3 emissions.”
The new objective comes after GE investors in May overwhelmingly backed a shareholder proposal pushing the company to say whether it planned to reach net-zero by 2050. As You Sow, the shareholder advocacy group behind the push, also pushed the company to include emissions from the use of its products and its supply chain in its net zero goal, saying the company had been slow to address this category, undoubtedly the largest associated with the company. Doing so would give investors a clearer picture of how the company planned to address its climate footprint, the group argued. GE’s board also supported the proposal.
GE is a top supplier of wind turbines and provides other technologies that have a role in the electricity sector’s shift away from fossil-fuel power generation, but its jet-engine and gas-power units face stiff challenges in the coming decades as pressure mounts from governments, investors and the public to eliminate pollution that contributes to climate change.
Many other large industrial businesses have preceded GE in setting net-zero targets. Air carriers such as Air Canada and British Airways, for example, have pledged to reach greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050, while the industry’s global trade group, the International Air Transport Association, plans to propose a similar industry-wide goal at its annual meeting in October. Meanwhile, General Motors, the largest U.S. automaker, pledged earlier this year to reach net zero by 2040, with interim targets that include its Scope 3 emissions.