Interview with Ralf Pfitzner, Head of Sustainability at Volkswagen
The Volkswagen Group has received confirmation from the independent Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) that the company’s climate targets meet the conditions for limiting global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius”. This is in line with the requirements of the Paris Climate Protection Agreement. In an interview, Ralf Pfitzner, Head of Sustainability at Volkswagen, explains what the SBTi test means – and how it fits in with the current climate protection debate in the European Union.
Mr. Pfitzner, the EU is currently discussing a further significant tightening of the climate targets. Is the SBTi review of Volkswagen’s climate protection targets the answer to this?
No, that’s not the answer – but the confirmation of our goals fits the topic perfectly. At the beginning of the year, we had already initiated the independent review of our climate protection goals by the SBTi. A scientifically sound and thorough audit for a group like Volkswagen naturally takes some time. The fact that the confirmation of our targets now coincided with the current EU proposal is simply a coincidence.
The Group has set itself the goal of being carbon neutral in its balance sheet by 2050. And on the way there, the goal has been defined to reduce CO₂ emissions by 30 percent by 2025 compared to 2015 levels. Why is there now another, new goal and how does it all fit together?
This is indeed somewhat in need of explanation. First of all: We have determined our very ambitious interim target of 2025 using the same scientific method, and the target is still valid. But since SBTi is only looking at a period of at least ten years ahead, we have chosen the period 2018-2030. The initiative also currently only takes into account the company’s own CO₂ reductions - i.e. no CO₂ compensation. Climate protection projects for the protection of endangered tropical forests are also an important building block for our goal in 2025 and enable, for example, the CO₂-neutral handover of the ID.3¹ to our customers.
“If every company pursues corresponding goals, we will be successful together in climate protection.”
What is better about the SBTi methodology?
I would not call it better. But the criteria are crystal clear and ensure maximum transparency and traceability of a company’s own efforts. The logic behind this is casually formulated: “What must happen in the respective industries and companies so that, in total, global warming is limited to well below 2 degrees?” If every company pursues corresponding goals, we will be successful together in climate protection.
Why does it need the SBTi stamp at all??
SBTi is the most renowned initiative worldwide and has very credible partners such as the WWF, the UN Global Compact and the World Resource Institute behind it. The ultimate, so to speak.
If the goals of 2025 can be compared with the new ones for 2030 at all – what is the comparison like?
A comparison is of course somewhat misleading. But it is fair to say that Volkswagen is adding another level to the already ambitious figures for 2025 because we are not including CO₂ compensation in 2030. Nevertheless, we will continue to invest in forest protection projects, because we believe that is the right thing to do.
Is that enough to achieve the EU’s current plans to reduce greenhouse gases by 55 percent?
That depends on how the targets are broken down to the industries; however, it would probably not be enough for the transport sector. We would then have to think again about electromobility if the plans were implemented in this way.
Finally, a personal question: What would you wish for as Head of Sustainability?
I would like to ride my bike from my apartment in Wolfsburg directly to the factory site in front of my office. I would also be willing to finance my business bicycle myself.
1ID.3 - Power consumption in kWh/100 km (NEDC): 15.4-14.5 (combined), CO2 emission in g/km: 0; efficiency class: A+