March 10, 2009 / 1:02 AM / 10 years ago

Disney sets plan to cut carbon emissions to zero

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Walt Disney Co said on Monday that it planned to cut carbon emissions from fuels by half by 2012, and ultimately to achieve net zero direct greenhouse gas emissions at its office and retail complexes, theme parks and cruise lines.

People dressed as cartoon characters Mickey and Minnie greet visitors with their latest Year of the Mouse costumes at Hong Kong Disneyland in this file photo from January 21, 2008. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Disney also set a long-term goal to cut to zero the amount of waste it sends to landfills — which totaled nearly 300,000 tons in 2006, much of it from construction, through diverting some to recycling centers, composting and buying more post-consumer recycled materials.

The company pledged to reduce water use as well as emissions and waste associated with the manufacture, transport, use and disposal of Disney products.

Beth Stevens, senior vice president of environmental affairs, said Disney has “not put a definite time horizon” on taking emissions to zero and may have to rely in part on technology that is still under development to reach that goal.

“We set those (goals) because they were very aspirational,” Stevens said. “We thought it was important ... to communicate a sense of commitment.”

The environmental plan was released a day ahead of Disney’s annual shareholder meeting, in its “corporate responsibility” report. The entertainment conglomerate is joining a growing number of U.S. corporations that have pledged to improve carbon and ecological footprints by a certain date, or have already done so.

“Current scientific conclusions indicate that urgent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are required to avert accelerated climate change,” the report said. “A successful response to these challenges demands fundamental changes in the way society, including businesses, use natural resources, and Disney is no exception.”

Disney worked with Conservation International on emissions reduction targets, and plans to have a third party monitor its progress through annual audits.

“This is a good effort on transparency and disclosure,” Rev. David Schilling, program director for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. But he noted that the report lacks some benchmarks and measures.

“They are giving the message, ‘Stay tuned, this is where we are starting,’” he said.

By 2013, Disney plans to reduce electricity consumption by 10 percent compared with its 2006 baseline at existing assets, and to develop a plan to “aggressively” pursue renewable electricity sources, the report said.

To get to zero net direct emissions, Disney plans to find efficiencies to cut emissions and to replace high-carbon fuels with low-carbon alternatives, then use “high-quality offsets” for what is left.

Disney also plans to buy clean electricity from utilities and invest in clean electricity projects, in addition to taking steps to conserve, the report said.

The company set 2013 as its goal for cutting solid waste to landfills by half of its 2006 baseline.

Disney shares fell 24 cents, or 1.52 percent, to $15.59 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Richard Chang

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