Business is stepping into the carbon void left by government

BUSINESSES yet again outshone governments at an international climate convention, announcing a spate of initiatives in New York last week.

Richard Collins

One initiative at the UN Climate Summit was the well supported RE100 campaign to encourage major companies to commit to using 100% renewable power.

Backed by companies including, IKEA, Swiss Re, BT, Mars, H&M Philips, Reed Elesvier and Nestle plus a clique of NGOs lead by The Climate Group, the goal is that “by 2020, 100 of the world’s largest businesses will have committed to 100% renewable power”

It will highlight the business and reputational benefits and provide guidance on selecting the best approach, including financial implications. IKEA Group chief sustainability officer Steve Howard said renewable power “makes complete business sense” for them.

“It aligns with our corporate expectations on financial returns and our values. So far, we have generated 1,425 GWh of power from renewable sources. We plan to invest approximately €1.5 billion in new renewable energy projects to meet 100% goal by 2020 goal – and RE100 is a great way to tell our story,” he said.

The Climate Group’s director of partnerships Ben Ferrari said they plan to expand the outreach in China and India over the coming year.

Meanwhile, 40 companies and another 110 governments, NGOs and indigenous groups have backed the New York Declaration on Forests, vowing halve tropical deforestation by 2020 and stop it entirely by 2030.

“This new pledge was the first time in history that a critical mass of developed and developing country world leaders partnered around such a goal. The declaration also includes a commitment to restore hundreds of millions of hectares of forest land,” noted the UN Development Program.

The companies include Nestle, Kellogg and Cargill, whose chief executive, Dave MacLennan, told the BBC he wanted Cargill to be a leader in tackling deforestation and climate change.

"For us, it's a momentous time in our long history to say we're not just going to be part of the pack; we want to be out in front,'" said MacLennan, adding "it's too big to ignore”

Then there was We Mean Business, a collaboration between business groups working with the world’s most influential companies and investors to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy. They are the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, B Team, CDP, BSR Ceres, Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group and the Climate Group.

The coalition released ‘The Climate Has Changed: Why bold, low carbon action makes business sense’, which offers evidence for why low carbon investments are good for business. It also calls for policymakers to help the private sector go further by, among other things:

  • Increasing the ambition in government action, such as by eliminating subsidies for high-carbon energy, backing renewables, pricing carbon, introducing robust energy efficiency standards and pushing a low carbon future through trade and macroeconomic settings;
  • Establishing a clear long-term global goal that provides the necessary direction to decision makers, such as (net) zero emissions well before the end of the century;
  • Enhancing monitoring mechanisms around climate ambition and action, and ensure a stable and predictable low carbon investment environment; and
  • Continuing to scale up public finance to support resilience-building and accelerate low carbon investment by the private sector.

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Meanwhile, Ceres has coordinated a Global Investor Statement on Climate Change signed by 348 investors representing more than $US24 trillion in assets, and the World Bank said 73 countries and more than 1,000 companies had expressed their support for a price on carbon.

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