Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Climate Action from American Corporations

On Monday July 27th the White House launched the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Nations around the world have submitted their INDCs and corporations are also providing climate pledges of their own ahead of COP21. This significant climate change mitigation effort involves some of the world's largest enterprises. A total of 13 American companies have agreed to invest at least $140 billion in low-carbon technology and add more than 1,600 megawatts of renewable energy. This is in addition to preexisting company goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half and reduce water use. Together these companies have revenues of $1.3 trillion and a combined market capitalization of $2.5 trillion.

This effort from American companies is part of the Obama administration's effort to build momentum for the forthcoming COP21 climate talks scheduled to take place in Paris at the end of the year. President Obama announced the US INDCs in the spring of this year. At COP21 it is hoped that the world will come together to sign a global climate agreement that will keep global temperatures from rising beyond the upper threshold limit of 2 degrees Celsius.

Thirteen American companies made new climate commitments as part of the White House's American Act on Climate Pledge. These companies include Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS and Walmart.

"Our engagement with these companies today is around their commitment to supporting a strong outcome in Paris," White House adviser Brian Deese told reporters in a conference call. "This is about demonstrating the American business community's support for a strong outcome and demonstrating U.S. leadership."

The President's initiative to get large American corporations to make climate mitigation pledges adds to his growing reputation as a climate hawk.

Some of the highlights of the plan include pledges to cut emissions by 2020, the date when a hoped for international climate agreement will come into effect. Coca-Cola indicated it would cut emissions by 25 percent, while UPS revealed that it would reduce emissions by 20 percent below 2007 levels. GM said it would slash carbon intensity by 20 percent compared with 2010 levels.

Google has stated that it will triple its purchase of renewable energy with the goal of generating 100 percent of the power required for its operations with renewables. Microsoft plans to use renewables to power its data centers, offices, labs and manufacturing facilities. Goldman Sachs also indicated that they are seeking to use only renewables for all their operations by 2020.

Bank of America said they would more than double their environmentally oriented lending, investments, capital-raising, advising and financing from $50 billlion to $125 billion in 2025. Berkshire Hathaway plans to double its clean energy investments from $15 billion to $30 billion and shut 75 percent of its coal fired plants in Nevada.

Predictably as a Swiss clock, Republicans are attacking effort to move away from climate change causing fossil fuels. They are also vociferous in the resistance to the Obama administration's climate action and the forthcoming deal at COP21.

Republican majorities in both houses of congress are hostile to climate action and the Senate can be expected to kill any climate deal that comes before them. In response the White House has suggested that it may try to use existing treaties and a non-binding emissions pledge to avoid having to table a deal before climate denying Republican Senators.

Despite Republican obstructionism, the White House plans even more climate action.

"Today's announcements are only the beginning. This fall, the Obama administration will release a second round of pledges, with a goal of mobilizing many more companies to join the American Business Act on Climate Pledge," the White House said.

More corporate commitments are expected at a State Department event in October.

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