|Business leaders dicuss ways they are innovating and investing to meet their climate challenges at a C2ES event during COP 21 in Paris. (Photo courtesy of UNFCCC via Flickr).|
A clear message coming out of Paris is that, now more than ever, businesses, states and cities are taking the lead on climate.
The conference kicked off with more than 150 heads of state -- the largest group of world leaders ever to stand together – urging action to curb the risks of of climate change – the more frequent and severe heat waves, droughts, downpours and rising sea levels that we’re already experiencing.
But I was struck by just how many state representatives, mayors, and business leaders from the U.S. and around the world were here in Paris, all lending their voice to support taking strong action globally to address climate change.
Soon after I arrived, I was honored to participate in a Climate Summit for Local Leaders at Paris City Hall hosted by Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It was the first time local leaders had ever gathered in such numbers during a UN climate change conference.
But their actions on climate started long before Paris. More than 400 cities have signed onto the Compact of Mayors – a global coalition of cities committed to measure and reduce their emissions. Former Mayor Bloomberg explained it this way: “Policies at the local level can make a huge difference. Local leaders are doers.”
As negotiators in Paris put the finishing touches on a new global climate accord, it’s worth reflecting on how much the summit has already accomplished.
One event or agreement by itself can’t completely reverse the climate problem. But like other important moments in history, such as the drive to land on the moon in 1969, Paris can inspire innovations across society.The U.S. space program would not have been possible without technologies that still benefit us today like scratch-resistant lenses, computer microchips, smoke detectors and solar panels. Nearly half a century later, many businesses, cities, states and nations are taking new, bold steps to reduce emissions and move toward a clean energy economy.
Whether it’s paving the way for rapid, wide-scale development of renewables, investing in energy efficiency technology and lower carbon electricity, or building resilience to climate impacts, a huge wave of innovation has already been unleashed.
Consider just some of the announcements made before and during the Paris talks:
- Leaders of 20 countries announced they’ll seek to double investment in clean energy research and development over five years. Backing up this effort, called Mission Innovation, are more than two dozen investors led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates who have pledged to fund early-stage clean energy technology coming out of Mission Innovation.
- India and France announced an international solar alliance to dramatically increase the reach of solar energy to more than 100 countries in the tropics.
Global climate talks underway in Paris have been built on a foundation of more than just national government commitments. “Sub-national actors,” such as cities, states, and companies, have been making their own climate commitments ahead of Paris, and that trend continues this week.
Just today, in a full-page Wall Street Journal ad coordinated in part by C2ES, more than 100 companies announced their support for a fair and strong global climate agreement and pledged to ensure a transition to a low-carbon, energy-efficient U.S. economy. These companies join a growing chorus of corporate voices for climate action. For example:
- More than 150 companies, from Alcoa to Xerox, have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge and committed to reducing their environmental impact through steps such as cutting emissions in half, reducing water usage, and running on 100 percent renewable energy.
- Bill Gates and other leading business entrepreneurs launched a multibillion-dollar public-private partnership to fund research and development of innovative clean energy technologies.
- Last week, 78 global CEOs signed an open letter calling committing to action and calling on governments to implement carbon pricing.
- This fall, 14 energy, tech and manufacturing companies with more than $1 trillion in revenues signed a statement organized by C2ES supporting a balanced and durable international agreement.
Why do more and more businesses care about climate change?
Key Insights on Business State and City Collaboration for Climate Resilience
C2ES held a Solutions Forum workshop focusing on opportunities for collaboration on climate resilience in November 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. More than 40 business leaders, state and city officials, non-profit organizations, and other experts shared their experiences addressing climate change impacts and enhancing resilience. Discussion focused on the role each stakeholder group can play in planning for climate change. This paper summarizes the key insights of the meeting and areas of focus moving forward.
More than 300,000 electric vehicles (EVs) are already on the road in the United States, but to ramp up adoption of this technology, consumers will need more access to charging beyond their home or office.
C2ES has identified business models that, combined with near-term public support, could boost investment in publicly available EV charging and expand the environmental benefits of EVs.
The business models are detailed in a new C2ES publication, Strategic Planning to Implement Publicly Available EV Charging Stations: A Guide for Businesses and Policymakers. The guide draws on research from a two-year initiative in partnership with the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) to explore innovative financing mechanisms aimed at accelerating the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles and fueling infrastructure.
Strategic Planning to Implement Publicly Available EV Charging Stations: A Guide for Businesses and Policymakers
Can you feel the momentum?
With negotiators meeting in Bonn this week and only six weeks to go until Paris, the business community is not only stepping up to the plate, but is swinging for the fences on its support climate action (Yes, it’s playoff season, so baseball is also on my mind).
This week’s announcement that 69 companies have joined the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge brings the total to 81. Many of these companies pledging to reduce their emissions, take other actions to tackle climate change and support a strong international agreement include a number of members of our own Business Environmental Leadership Council: Alcoa, Bank of America, GE, General Motors, HP, IBM, Intel and PG&E. Together the 81 companies represent a combined $3 trillion in revenue and 9 million employees.
And last week, 14 companies with a combined revenue of $1.1 trillion and 1.5 million employees signed a statement organized by C2ES in support of a Paris climate agreement, that began “Paris presents a critical opportunity to strengthen efforts globally addressing the causes and consequences of climate change, and to demonstrate action by businesses and other non-state actors. ”
But these companies aren’t just talking about climate change; they’re doing something about it. They’re making commitments to reduce their own emissions, and some are even committing to use 100% renewable energy through the RE100 campaign. They are also working both internally and with communities and cities to increase climate resilience.
Now it’s time to take this enthusiasm and put it to work. We know there is growing support for a strong agreement in Paris, and hopefully that’s what we’ll get in December. But that’s just the first step—we’ll need to ensure that countries live up to their commitments, and back here in the United States, we’ll be working with businesses, states, and cities to build partnerships that harness the power of the markets to reduce emissions, develop innovative financing for clean energy and strengthen our resilience to climate impacts.
We have some real momentum going now. Let’s make the most of it.
Cities and counties are increasingly emerging as climate leaders, becoming laboratories and incubators for climate solutions. These solutions take a fresh approach to emerging local challenges, and could drive progress at a larger scale.
Here are two key ways cities are stepping up:
· Local governments are creating an invaluable knowledge base for efficiency and sustainability efforts.
To reach your destination, you have to know where you are starting from. That’s why it’s so important that cities are taking advantage of ever-improving data collection and analytical capabilities to become the providers of rich databases of energy and water use in their jurisdictions.
Philadelphia's Energy Benchmarking program requires large commercial buildings to disclose their energy use. As a result, the city has a baseline of energy usage by nearly 2,000 buildings across multiple sectors. By sharing this data with building owners and energy managers, the city is focusing more attention on saving energy. And by sharing building data online with potential tenants, the city hopes to create a market for efficient buildings.
A similar program in New York City has had promising results. The disclosure policy corresponded with energy savings of nearly 6 percent - worth more than $260 million.
The fastest growing family of greenhouse gases – extremely potent hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) -- aren’t going to be growing as fast in the future.
Today’s White House announcement of voluntary industry commitments to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), along with new regulations put in place over the past year, have created game-changing shifts toward more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Developed as substitutes for ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the late 1980s, HFCs have become widely used worldwide in refrigerators, air conditioners, foam products, and aerosols. While they don’t contribute to ozone depletion, HFCs can trap 1,000 times or more heat in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide. This means they have a high global warming potential (GWP).
The amount of these compounds produced around the world has been growing at a rate of more than 10 percent per year. Unless controlled, emissions of HFCs could nearly triple in the U.S. by 2030. Strong international action to reduce HFCs could reduce temperature increases by 0.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, a critical contribution to global efforts to limit climate change.
The 16 voluntary industry commitments that make up today’s announcement highlight the innovation and leadership U.S. industry is showing in meeting the challenges of addressing climate change. These actions build on 22 commitments made by industry at a White House event just a year ago.
Weathering the Next Storm:
September 22, 2015
By Katy Maher and Janet Peace
Infographic with key takeaways
Increased extreme weather and climate-related impacts are imposing significant costs on society and on companies. While businesses are increasingly taking steps to assess risks and prepare for future climate changes, many companies face internal and external challenges that hinder efforts to move toward greater climate resilience. Building and expanding on an earlier review completed in 2013, C2ES examined how large companies are preparing for climate risk, who they are partnering with, and what is keeping them for doing more.