Regardless of Trump, US businesses are speeding toward a low-carbon world

Lance Pierce

While Trump’s administration grapples with its position on climate change, it’s worth stepping back to see the wider picture in the US, believes Lance Pierce, North America president of CDP. In fact – he writes from New York – it is business that is really taking action on climate

It is vital for the US to lead on the Paris Agreement on climate change. This is, of course, the global commitment made in 2015 enabling the world to tackle rising CO2 emissions and prevent a catastrophic further two degrees warming of the planet. Global warming doesn’t just increase temperatures, it threatens food security, clean water, and people’s health. Some 145 countries, including the UK and the US, have sealed the deal. It is this agreement that is currently being scrutinised by the US government. Will President Trump pull out?

We need to accelerate our joint actions as people, organisations and nations to have maximum impact, and the Paris Agreement represents a meaningful shift towards a low carbon economy. That is, it provides a clear path to guide our emissions reductions together with the rest of the world.

Everyone is quickly learning that cutting carbon pays

Our country’s power is not all in the capital in Washington. In fact, it is spread right across our vast nation, spanning boardrooms, city and state borders. Governments are not working alone: companies, investors, citizens, cities, states and regions are thankfully awake to the urgent need for tackling climate change and are the major force behind the move to a low carbon world. This will continue regardless of the US federal government’s position, a crucial point to remember.

Climate change is an urgent concern and the majority of investors working with CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, want to know how companies are dealing with environmental risk and working to build a green and fair economy. We see many investors buying into companies working towards clean energy; energy efficiency; electric transport and recyclable products. This direction lies at the heart of our organisation, delivering the only global system for measuring the environmental impact of companies, cities, states and regions across the world.

Now, 63 per cent per cent of the world’s largest 100 companies have committed to renewable energy. Significant numbers of companies have now set 100 per cent renewable energy goals and aim to reduce their C02 emissions directly in line with the global goal of limiting global temperature rise to below two degrees C.

Sourcing 100 per cent renewable energy is an increasingly ‘real’ target. Some 90 companies – including well-known US brands – such as Apple, Bank of America, Google, Starbucks and Walmart – have committed to 100 per cent renewable power. Together, they are creating demand for approximately 107 TWh of renewable power annually, around the same amount of electricity as consumed by The Netherlands. This proves that we are moving forward with purpose, and importantly, ambition. And this momentum is sending ripple effects throughout the entire economy.

Companies know taking climate action is what good, modern business does and will go it alone without their federal government if they must

It is renewables, not coal, that are creating American jobs, with the solar and wind industries alone both creating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the US economy. Last year, renewables became the largest source of new electricity for the first time in the country. US states are really behind a renewables industry valued at $36bn, with large portions of the country already powered by renewables. For example, New York and California aim to run 50 per cent of their states on renewables by 2030. Everyone is quickly learning that cutting carbon pays. Last year, the world’s biggest companies saved $12.4bn while reducing emissions equivalent to France’s annual carbon footprint. This is good news for us all.

We are entering a new era where doing good for the environment and society is not just about right and wrong. Climate action is about survival. Survival for people, companies, cities, states and, yes, nations. Faced with the prospect of the US government abandoning its climate change commitments, our businesses across the US, such as Gap, Microsoft and Tiffany & Co, are publicly urging it to reconsider. They know taking climate action is what good, modern business does and will go it alone without their federal government if they must.

Lance Pierce is North America president of CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project.


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