Companies are part of the equation to address climate change

While the focus in New York this week has been on world leaders pledging to act on climate change, business leaders also stepped up to be part of the climate solution.

In recent years, many companies have acknowledged the risks of climate change and worked to improve their energy efficiency and sustainability. This week, companies announced new efforts to fund clean energy, reduce carbon emissions, and support a price on carbon.

For example, Bank of America announced an initiative to spur at least $10 billion of new investment in clean energy projects. Hewlett Packard announced plans to reduce emissions intensity of its product portfolio by 40 percent from 2010 levels by 2020.

Many companies joined together to take a stand:

  • More than 1,000 businesses joined 73 countries and 22 states, provinces and cities in signing a World Bank statement in favor of a price on carbon emissions. Among them are several members of the C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council: Alstom, Areva, Bayer, BP, Holcim, Johnson Controls, National Grid, PG&E, Rio Tinto and Royal Dutch Shell.
  • Forty companies, including the largest in the highly carbon-intensive palm oil trade, pledged to help stop tropical deforestation.
  • A coalition of companies in food storage announced they will reduce emissions, including replacing a type of refrigerant that acts as a powerful greenhouse gas.
  • Six international energy companies agreed to partner with more than a dozen national governments to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Why are these businesses acting on the climate issue? Because their success depends on it.

Companies already face real climate risks as increasingly frequent and intense heat waves, coastal flooding, and other types of extreme weather disrupt supply and distribution chains, damage facilities, and raise costs.

Many companies also see opportunity in innovating and investing in clean energy and energy efficiency as we move toward a lower-carbon future that would let us escape the most severe impacts of climate change.

Company announcements this week — followed up by action — are significant. Alone, however, they’re not enough. It will also take government action at all levels – local, state, national, and international – to set the policies and goals that will enable us to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, develop clean energy, and boost resilience to climate impacts so that both our environment and economy can thrive.

When we can bring businesses and governments together on climate issues, we are likely to end up with swifter, more effective actions that will stick. We hope that the recent commitments made this week will serve as a signal to policymakers that now is the time to act, and that business partners are ready and willing to be a part of the solution.