January 2, 2018 Read More →

‘I am Asking You to Misbehave’: Companies Across the Globe Take Action on Renewable Energy

GreenTech Media:

When President Trump announced plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord attention quickly turned to corporate America. Would business leaders forge ahead in the fight against climate change in the absence of federal backing?

In 2017, at least, the answer is yes. 

As of December 12, when heads of state joined to commemorate the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement, 327 major corporations, worth a cumulative $6.5 trillion, had committed to matching their emission reduction plans with the Paris goals through the Science Based Targets initiative. Another 864 companies have stated their intention to adopt a science-based target within two years. 

These companies hail from some 50 countries and 70 sectors, including finance, chemicals, food processing, technology hardware and more. Companies headquartered in the U.S. make up 20 percent of the group and have made the greatest number of climate commitments to date, despite uncertainty surrounding the American government’s participation in the Paris accord.

In addition, some 1,700 U.S. businesses from every state and of varying sizes — from Walmart to Wild Joe’s Coffee Spot in Bozeman, Montana — have signed the “We Are Still In” declaration. The initiative, which also includes cities, statehouses and college campuses, was intended to demonstrate America’s enduring commitment to delivering on the promise of the Paris Agreement.

Apple, for instance, issued a $1 billion green bond in June, shortly after Trump announced his exit from the climate deal, which CEO Tim Cook tried to convince the president not to quit. This is the tech giant’s second green bond, following a $1.5 billion offering that came in response to the Paris Agreement last year. Proceeds from the green bond sales will be used to finance renewable energy and energy efficiency projects at Apple facilities.

In another significant development this year, Walmart launched Project Gigaton, which asks its suppliers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 1 gigaton by 2030. That amounts to the equivalent of taking more than 211 million passenger vehicles off of U.S. roads for an entire year.

Walmart is “bypassing the politics” to focus on driving down emissions internally and in its supply chain, said the company’s Chief Sustainability Officer Kathleen McLaughlin, speaking at the New York Times’ ClimateTECH conference in late November. There is a business case for supporting sustainable agriculture, combating deforestation, reducing waste and purchasing renewables, she said. Cost savings is one, but there’s also the potential for business-model innovation, improved product quality and increased sales revenue.

“In light of the withdrawal from the Paris accord…I wouldn’t say the political winds are favorable to the climate agenda right now,” McLaughlin said. “But we’re trying to make it practical and favorable just from a common-sense point of view.”

Walmart signed the We Are Still in pledge, she added, because “we think we need to show the rest of the world that there is still a critical mass of American companies of states and cities working on this, to drive [climate action] forward.” …

New recruits to the 100 percent group

As part of their climate action plans, 119 companies have committed to sourcing renewable energy for 100 percent of their operations through the RE100 initiative. That’s up from 56 members a year and a half ago.

Schneider Electric is the latest company to commit to 100 percent renewable electricity through RE100, with a 2030 target date. The European multinational also pledged to double its energy productivity by 2030, from a 2005 baseline, through an initiative called EP100

 “When it comes to the climate, I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist — I’m an activist,” said Schneider Electric Chairman and CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire, in a statement. “Prosperity and energy are intertwined.”

Other recent additions to the RE100 list include Estée Lauder, Kellogg, DBS Bank and Clif Bar. Citi Group also made the 100 percent renewables pledge in September, on top of the company’s vow to finance $100 billion in clean energy, infrastructure and technology projects. 

Meanwhile, French utility EDF Group recently committed to transitioning to electric vehicles by 2030 through EV100, a new initiative that seeks to make electric transport “the new normal.” All three initiatives — RE100, EP100 and EV100 — are led by the international nonprofit organization The Climate Group.

At the COP23 climate conference in November, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ had a message for businesses: “I am asking you to misbehave.” He called for companies around the world to disrupt “business-as-usual” and urge governments to ramp up their climate action plans.

Hundreds of businesses, in the U.S. and abroad, have accepted the secretary’s challenge. Now, the world will be watching for them to follow through.

More: How Corporations ‘Bypassed the Politics’ to Lead on Clean Energy in 2017

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