Investments, commitments create climate leaders

With strong scientific evidence underscoring the imperative of decarbonizing the global economy, members of the C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) are showing unprecedented leadership through their climate targets and financial commitments. Some are leading the way by committing to net-zero emissions or carbon neutrality by 2050. Others are establishing government-level investments in solutions that will empower many others to achieve their climate goals. These commitments are an unmistakable signal to policymakers and the market, creating greater demand for clean energy and fuels and new emissions reduction technologies. As the companies’ collective actions and resources begin to transform markets, they are helping to put the United States on course to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Leading the way with ambitious goals 

With only modest congressional support for clean energy and no meaningful federal leadership in recent years, it would be easy to believe most progress has stalled. In addition to the state and local governments that have stepped up in response, major companies, too, have made serious strides in becoming clean-energy leaders. The 37 BELC businesses, spanning multiple sectors of the economy, are committing to climate action with ambitious targets and innovative decarbonization strategies. Collectively, they are working toward more than 150 cumulative absolute, intensity, and other climate-related targets.

BELC members have also reported a cumulative $7 billion investment in emissions reduction initiatives, leading to more than 20 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent reductions in 2018, saving $1.4 billion per year. The companies believe it’s a competitive advantage to modernize for the economic opportunities of the clean energy future, but it’s also a significant material risk to ignore it, especially in sectors where decarbonization has proven difficult.

Power companies in the BELC are also making ambitious commitments to transition to clean energy sources and offset residual emissions. In February, Dominion Energy committed to net-zero emissions in its generation and infrastructure operations by 2050. Dominion will also seek to extend its nuclear licenses, promote customer efficiency, and invest in wind and solar. This closely follows Arizona Public Service’s January commitment to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050 by expanding solar capacity, investing in energy storage, continuing nuclear operations, and advancing customer efficiency. Last year, PSEG, Duke Energy, DTE Energy, National Grid, and Edison International made their own decarbonization commitments.

Alongside these commitments, companies representing a variety of sectors – Bank of America, BHP, Dow, and Toyota – have joined their BELC colleagues in setting ambitious mid-century targets. Bank of America is scaling its energy efficiency efforts and buying 100 percent renewable electricity, while committing more than $445 billion by 2030 to low-carbon, sustainable business activities. BHP’s strategy includes renewable electricity contracts and greening its vehicle fleet through electric power and alternative fuels. The company is also investing in carbon capture and storage investments and committing $400 million to further emissions cuts. Dow has committed to advancing its manufacturing operations and continually improving the sustainability of its products. Toyota’s commitment includes rolling out a diverse electric vehicle lineup, incorporating low-emission and recycled materials into vehicle production, and using fuel cell technology in commercial trucks.

Empowering climate action with investment

In order to succeed in meeting these commitments, companies need to invest in new technologies that will reduce the emissions of their supply chains, processes, and products. As a result, BELC companies are stepping up with unprecedented levels of investment funding—especially venture capital—in emerging solutions, as well as to advocate for complementary policies.

The most recent investment comes from Amazon, which in June created the $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund. The fund supports and attracts additional and ongoing investments in sustainable and decarbonizing technologies. This includes transportation and logistics, energy generation, storage and use, manufacturing and materials, the circular economy, and food and agriculture. This fund is intended to help Amazon to fulfill its commitment to meet Paris Agreement goals 10 years early (2040), including 100 percent renewable power procurement by 2030 and a $100 million investment in reforestation.

Microsoft’s $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund, announced in January, also provides high-level funding for clean energy projects. Microsoft’s strategy also includes its first-of-a-kind commitment to becoming carbon negative by 2030, pledging to remove from the environment all of the company’s carbon emissions since its 1975 founding. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates also co-chairs a similar initiative, the $1 billion Breakthrough Energy Fund, established in 2016.

This level of commitment is not only unusually large for the private sector, but it compares with the level of clean-tech support the federal government has given in the past. For example, the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which fosters the development and deployment of early-stage, high-impact technologies, was funded at $2.38 billion in FY19.

These commitments pave the way for government policies, like those mentioned in the recent C2ES brief, Restoring the Economy with Climate Solutions: Recommendations to Congress, that will encourage and expedite decarbonization nationwide. Policies like extending and expanding solar and wind tax credits and establishing a national green bank would enable an environment where solutions can scale and boost our economy, building on business momentum to transform society.

Looking at the commitments of BELC members, it is clear that with a federal government sitting on the sidelines, private sector companies are making a strong statement on the need for leadership and action toward carbon neutrality. They’re doing so by innovating their business models, transforming their supply chains, expanding investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, and advocating for policies and technologies that can help accelerate their work and empower others to make further emissions cuts, speeding the transition to a low-carbon economy. These commitments and policy advocacy are clear examples for others to follow as we work toward putting the economy on track toward carbon neutrality by 2050.