Com­pa­nies pledge to tackle cli­mate change

Iran Daily - - Cultural Heritage & Environment -

In the fight against cli­mate change, govern­ment and in­dus­try tra­di­tion­ally have been ad­ver­saries, as reg­u­la­tors try to force pol­luters to take costly steps to cut plan­et­warm­ing emis­sions. But at California Gov. Jerry Brown’s global cli­mate sum­mit this past week, some of the world’s big­gest com­pa­nies were in the spot­light as part­ners in tack­ling global warm­ing, wrote.

The pri­vate sec­tor has emerged as a grow­ing player in the al­liance of cities, states and other in­sti­tu­tions pledg­ing to up­hold emis­sions cuts of the Paris cli­mate agree­ment, which has been dis­avowed by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

In­dus­try giants such as Mcdon­ald’s, Wal­mart and Levi Strauss are ral­ly­ing be­hind cli­mate ac­tion, an­nounc­ing plans to ex­pand their use of re­new­able en­ergy and es­tab­lish sci­ence-based tar­gets to re­duce green­house gases to help the na­tion reach its goals un­der the Paris pact.

“It used to be that you ex­pected govern­ment to lead and then in­vestors and busi­ness to fol­low,” said Mindy Lub­ber, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ceres, a sus­tain­abil­ity non­profit that works with com­pa­nies and in­vestors.

“It is com­pletely turned on its head right now. The lead­er­ship on mov­ing cli­mate pol­icy is com­ing from ev­ery­where but the fed­eral govern­ment.”

Cor­po­rate en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­forts have been met with some skep­ti­cism, in­clud­ing ques­tions of whether they mark an ex­er­cise in eco-friendly brand­ing — green­wash­ing, as some call it — more than a true trans­for­ma­tion in prac­tices.

But busi­ness lead­ers ar­gue that the scale of their op­er­a­tions is large enough to help achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris deal, in which pres­i­dent Barack Obama promised to cut the US’ emis­sions at least 26 per­cent be­low 2005 lev­els by 2025.

So far, nearly 500 com­pa­nies have adopted sci­ence­based emis­sions tar­gets in line with the Paris pledge, ac­cord­ing to the global not-for-profit Busi­ness for So­cial Re­spon­si­bil­ity. A flurry of new ones came as the sum­mit be­gan. Tech com­pa­nies an­nounced com­mit­ments to re­duce car­bon emis­sions by run­ning more of their en­ergy-gob­bling data cen­ters with re­new­able elec­tric­ity.

Kaiser Per­ma­nente re­vealed a plan to shift to re­new­able en­ergy that will al­low it to be­come car­bon neu­tral by 2020.

Banks and in­vestors pub­li­cized shift­ing money out of coal and into re­new­ables and other low-car­bon port­fo­lios.

Re­tail­ers and restau­ra­teurs said they would work with sup­pli­ers to squeeze green­house gas re­duc­tions from farm­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Pro­po­nents of such pledges ar­gue that they are hap­pen­ing be­cause there’s an in­creas­ingly clear busi­ness case for cli­mate ac­tion.

Com­pa­nies are see­ing more im­pacts to their op­er­a­tions and sup­ply chains from ex­treme weather and other shifts driven by ris­ing green­house gas emis­sions. They’re fac­ing mount­ing pres­sure from con­sumers and in­vestors to fac­tor cli­mate risks into their busi­ness de­ci­sions.

In short, they’re re­al­iz­ing that tack­ling cli­mate change, even if it clashes with US fed­eral pol­icy, is good for busi­ness.

“Rep­u­ta­tion re­ally mat­ters, and mat­ters in­creas­ingly,” said Christina Her­man, a pro­gram di­rec­tor for the In­ter­faith Cen­ter on Cor­po­rate Re­spon­si­bil­ity, a coali­tion of in­sti­tu­tional and faith-based in­vestors.

Shift­ing pub­lic opin­ion has meant that some large com­pa­nies have taken po­si­tions at odds with state or fed­eral govern­ment — whether it’s to help their bot­tom line, gen­er­ate pub­lic­ity or pro­tect their image with con­sumers.

It was the US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s turn against the Paris agree­ment that spurred the Amer­i­can pri­vate sec­tor to ac­tion, said Brian Deese, head of sus­tain­able in­vest­ing for Black­rock and a for­mer Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ad­viser on cli­mate change.

That in­cludes large in­vestors, who he said have shown grow­ing in­ter­est in cli­mate-friendly port­fo­lios over the past 18 months.

In­dus­try pledges on the en­vi­ron­ment haven’t held the same sig­nif­i­cance as govern­ment com­mit­ments be­cause they don’t have the teeth of laws, reg­u­la­tions or treaties — mean­ing com­pa­nies won’t face fines or sanc­tions if they fail to de­liver.

But busi­nesses point out that their com­mit­ments aren’t on the honor sys­tem ei­ther.

In­stead, they are sub­ject to strict mon­i­tor­ing and over­sight by sci­en­tists who mea­sure how their op­er­a­tions af­fect global warm­ing, and guide the ac­tions they must em­brace to ratchet down their emis­sions.

Wal­mart did the math on what it would take for the com­pany to meet the Paris tar­gets and used it to set a tar­get of re­duc­ing its emis­sions 18 per­cent by 2025 while work­ing with hun­dreds of its sup­pli­ers to re­duce a bil­lion met­ric tons of green­house gases by 2030.

Ex­ec­u­tives at Mcdon­ald’s, which has signed on to the We Are Still In coali­tion pledg­ing to meet the Paris cli­mate goals, said the com­pany’s de­ci­sion to com­mit to slash­ing green­house gas emis­sions from res­tau­rants, fran­chisees, of­fices and sup­pli­ers was mo­ti­vated by cli­mat­edriven shifts al­ready af­fect­ing its sup­ply chain, from cof­fee bean grow­ers, fish­ing ves­sels catch­ing cod and farm­ers rais­ing beef.

The com­pany will seek to achieve those tar­gets by us­ing cleaner en­ergy and equip­ment at res­tau­rants and work­ing with ranch­ers to adopt more-sus­tain­able graz­ing prac­tices and ad­dress de­for­esta­tion.

“Cli­mate change is the big­gest en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue of our time, and we can’t have a cred­i­ble sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy if we don’t ad­dress it,” said Francesca De­bi­ase, the com­pany’s chief sup­ply chain and sus­tain­abil­ity of­fi­cer.

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