McDonald's sets greenhouse gas reduction targets

March 20 (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp on Tuesday announced an approved, science based target to cut greenhouse gas emissions and battle climate change, saying it is the first restaurant company to do so.

Under a plan several years in the making, the fast-food company - along with its franchisees and suppliers - aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by roughly one third, preventing 150 million tonnes of them from being released into the atmosphere by 2030.

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"To meet this goal, we will source our food responsibly, promote renewable energy and use it efficiently, and reduce waste and increase recycling," McDonald's Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook said.

The commitment comes as President Donald Trump works to weaken Obama-era efforts to combat climate change. Trump decided last year to pull the United States out of the Paris climate pact.

Meat processor Tyson Foods Inc, one of McDonald's suppliers, is among the hundreds of companies that already have committed to fight climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

McDonald's said it would put the greatest emphasis on the largest contributors to its carbon footprint: beef production, restaurant energy usage and sourcing, packaging and waste. Those segments combined account for approximately 64 percent of McDonald's global emissions, the company said.

Among other things, it will support sustainable agricultural practices and packaging. It also plans to install energy-efficient lighting and kitchen equipment, and to encourage recycling in its restaurants.

Between 2015 and 2030, McDonald's and its partners intend to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to its restaurants and offices by 36 percent. The company also aims to reduce emissions intensity per tonne of food and packaging by 31 percent during that time frame.

McDonald's program was approved by the Science Based Targets initiative, a collaboration between the World Resources Institute, the World Wildlife Fund, CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) and the United Nations Global Compact, which help companies address climate change.

"We are about halfway there already on (total) packaging and waste," Francesca DeBiase, McDonald's chief supply chain and sustainability officer.

The planned reductions are the equivalent of taking 32 million passenger cars off the road for an entire year or planting 3.8 billion trees and growing them for 10 years.

CEO Easterbrook, who also has committed to reducing antibiotic use in chicken and cutting artificial ingredients, said the costs would not be disruptive.

"We're not expecting any substantial shift in business financials either at the corporate or restaurant level," Easterbrook said.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)