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Domestic and global cooperation important to reduce emissions, sustainability expert says

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The 2020s is a decade for “urgent action” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Sharon Tomkins, Sempra Energy vice president of sustainability, at a Monday seminar hosted by Stanford Energy. 

The energy sector is responsible for two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to Tomkins. While becoming more sustainable, a successful energy system must maintain reliability, resilience and affordability, she said. 

Tomkins said that she has seen a positive shift over the last few years as investors are starting to hold companies accountable for their sustainability efforts. According to a 2019 Natural Capital Partners report, approximately 23% of the Fortune Global 500 companies have made commitments to reducing emissions — a fourfold increase since the adoption of the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

“It’s important that we, as companies, hold ourselves accountable to create that long-term sustainable value in every respect,” she said. 

Challenges remain, according to Tomkins. The current regulations in the U.S. are “fragmented,” she said, and greater national leadership and federal standards are needed to curb global warming. 

Furthermore, with population growth and longer life expectancies across the globe, organizations need to continue reducing emissions while delivering economic success, Tomkins said. “Economic prosperity is directly tied to energy access,” she explained. 

Natural gas — the fossil fuel with the lowest level of emissions — will remain “for some time” and is necessary as a short-term solution to achieving the long-term goal of reducing carbon emissions and combating global warming, Tomkins said. 

In addition to bipartisan cooperation in the United States, Tomkins is optimistic about collaboration on a global scale. Tomkins hopes that her role — vice president of sustainability — “goes away” in the future. 

“If I’m doing my job,” she said, “then sustainability is embedded in everything that we do.”

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Anna Milstein ’23 is a desk editor for Vol. 259 Academic News and a Staff Writer. Contact her at amilstein ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.