GHG Emissions, Commercial, Industrial, Sourcing Renewables - January 3, 2020 - By Amna Khan, Ceres
Companies heed the call on climate change
As we welcome the new decade, the devastating impacts of our warming world are more present than ever and the need to reduce greenhouse emissions has never been more urgent. However, despite repeated warnings from scientists over the past decade that we must act now to transition to a net-zero emissions economy, emissions have continued to increase.
We saw further evidence of rising emissions in the latest United Nations’ annual Emissions Gap Report. While the media seized on the word “bleak” in the coverage of their report, they missed the signs of progress that we have seen this year among the U.S. business community.
Companies across sectors are heeding the call to act on climate change by limiting average global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. For example, this year 177 global companies committed to achieving 1.5°C-aligned science-based targets (including Danone, Levi Strauss & Co., Nestle, Salesforce and Schneider Electric), and there are now more than 200 companies (including Capital One, Etsy, Johnson & Johnson, Nike and Unilever) that have committed to get to 100% renewable energy by 2050 at the latest. Many more are setting and meeting their own ambitious goals to invest clean transportation and drive sustainable solutions within their own business operations and global supply chains.
Importantly, companies are not just taking action to tackle their own emissions, they are also driving policy change in Washington DC and in states across the country because they know corporate action alone is not enough. We also need effective public policy if we are to meet our shared climate goals.
We saw evidence of this increased corporate advocacy on climate change throughout the year. In May, more than 75 companies big and small—with a combined market value of $2.5 trillion and employing more than one million U.S. workers—traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to make the case for a well-designed carbon-pricing program, which economists believe is the most effective and efficient policy to reduce emissions while strengthening the economy and growing the job market.
Companies also played a key role in advancing state strategies to curb greenhouse gas emissions and scale up investments in clean energy and clean transportation. Victories from coast to coast show how businesses can help move policymakers to take critical climate action:
- Colorado became the first state in the interior to adopt the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program.
- A dozen states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic pursued plans to adopt a regional, market-based policy to curb emissions from the transportation sector.
- Nevada lawmakers raised the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and set a goal to achieve near-zero emissions by 2050.
- Virginia finalized carbon regulations for the electric power sector and issued a bold energy plan to move the state to a clean energy economy.
On the global stage, many U.S. companies including Autodesk, Indigo Agriculture, Mars, Inc., Microsoft, Salesforce, and Target traveled to Madrid, Spain, for the United Nation’s COP25 climate change conference to show the world they remain committed to meeting the U.S. goals under the Paris Climate Agreement. These companies continued to amplify calls for climate action, most notably with an unprecedented joint statement from CEOs of 75 companies who collectively employ more than 2 million people and the AFL-CIO, which represents more than 12.5 million U.S. workers, urging the federal government to keep the Paris Agreement. This call echoes more than 3,800 investors, companies, states, cities, tribes, businesses, investors, faith organizations, colleges, and universities, representing more than half of all Americans and $9 trillion of the U.S. economy, that have said loud and clear ‘We Are Still In’ since the Trump Administration announced its intent to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement more than two years ago.
We also saw calls for companies to raise the bar on climate action. This fall, 200 investors with a combined $6.5 trillion in assets under management urged nearly 50 of the largest publicly traded companies to align their climate lobbying with the goals of the Paris Agreement, warning that to do otherwise would pose financial risks to their portfolios. These investors warned that lobbying activities that are inconsistent with meeting climate goals are an investment risk.
Stakes are high for 2020, and companies are well poised to confront the challenges ahead with more resources and more ingenuity than ever before. There are plentiful opportunities to build upon the momentum of this year’s policy success—both at the federal and state levels. Ceres looks forward to continuing our work with companies to lead the way forward in 2020 toward bold new climate solutions and a thriving net-zero emissions economy.
Amna Khan is the director, partnership and stewardship, policy and BICEP Network, at Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit organization working with the most influential investors and companies to build leadership and drive solutions throughout the economy.
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