Companies pledge climate action

Thirteen companies took a public stand for climate action at the White House today, pledging to reduce heat-trapping emissions, increase clean energy investments, improve efficiency, and support efforts to reach a global climate agreement this year in Paris.

Three companies making pledges – Alcoa, Bank of America, and General Motors – are members of the C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council, a group of mostly Fortune 500 companies, representing a combined $2.3 trillion in revenue, that support climate policy solutions that will move us toward a low-carbon future.

These business leaders – and many more – recognize the reality of climate change and the necessity to act.

For instance, HP recently announced that it will power 100 percent of its Texas-based data centers with renewable energy, thanks to a 12-year agreement to buy power from a 112 MW wind farm in Texas, in partnership with SunEdison.

Dow has reduced 320 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its operations compared to 1990 levels, and announced that by 2020, its trajectory for absolute emissions from operations and purchased power will meet internationally recognized targets for a 2 degree Celcius maximum global temperature rise.

A wide array of industries, including construction, finance, defense, transportation, retail, energy and technology, as well as local government and higher education, have been honored with Climate Leadership Awards. The program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency with C2ES and The Climate Registry recognizes outstanding voluntary actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate change. Among the recipients earlier this year were Bank of America, The Clorox Company, General Motors, The Hartford, SC Johnson, Tiffany & Co. and UPS.

Why are all of these businesses in action? Because they get it.

They see climate risks firsthand — in damaged facilities, interrupted power and water supplies, disrupted supply and distribution chains, and impacts on their employees’ lives.

Last year was the warmest on Earth since we started keeping records over a century ago. During the first half of this year, it got even hotter. Climate change is posing real and rising risks to our environment, economy, security and society and the longer we wait to act, the costlier the impacts will be.

Today’s announcements represent at least $140 billion in new low-carbon investment and more than 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy, in addition to ambitious, company-specific goals to cut emissions.

Alcoa, which already had committed to reducing its greenhouse gas intensity 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, announced a pledge to up that to 50 percent by 2025.

Bank of America pledged to increase its current environmental business initiative from $50 billion to $125 billion by 2025.

And General Motors pledged to reduce energy intensity at its facilities 20 percent and water intensity 15 percent by 2020 from a 2010 baseline, in addition to increasing its use of renewable energy and reducing the waste it sends to landfills.

Although businesses – along with many cities and states — are working toward a more sustainable future, it will take a global effort to address a global threat. That’s why it is significant that these 13 companies today also announced their support for a strong outcome to the international climate talks in December in Paris.

Many nations, including the United States, China, and the European Union, have already announced their goals for reducing greenhouse gases as part of the Paris process. But the strength of any agreement will rest on the parties’ political will to implement it.

The strong support of business leaders for climate action, like that exhibited today, can only help to strengthen that will.