COP22 Climate Talks: How brave is business? Big US names call for Trump to honor climate deal
U.S. businesses this week re-affirmed a deep commitment to addressing climate change through the implementation of the historic Paris Climate Agreement. At the COP22 United Nations climate talks in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh, they said: “We want the U.S. economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy.”
Adding their names to those warning that the “failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk” were Kellogg (NYSE:K), Mars food companies, and Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX).
More than 360 other businesses, including Hewlett-Packard or HP Inc (NYSE:HPQ) , Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), General Mills Inc (NYSE:GIS) and Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE) have urged presidential-elect Donald Trump not to rip up the Paris climate accord when he takes office.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also spoke out in Marrakech this week in a bid to reassure those who feared next steps from a presidential-elect who has been volubly skeptical on the need for climate action. “I can’t stand here and speculate about what policies our President-elect will pursue,” he said.
But he added: “In the time I’ve spent in public life, one of the things I’ve learned is that some issues look a bit different when you’re actually in office compared to when you’re on the campaign trail.”
“Climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue in the first place” said Mr. Kerry – who got a standing ovation.
“Now more than ever, Levi Strauss & Co. believes it is important to reaffirm our commitment to address climate change by supporting the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Michael Kobori, vice president, sustainability, Levi Strauss & Co.
“Building an energy-efficient economy in the U.S., powered by low-carbon energy will ensure our nation’s competitiveness and position U.S. companies as leaders in the global market - all while doing the right thing for our planet,” he added.
“It is vital that the business community demonstrates its ongoing commitment to tackling climate change,” said Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability and Health and Wellbeing Officer at Mars Inc.
“The enormous momentum generated by the business and investment community to address climate change cannot be reversed and cannot be ignored by the Trump administration. That train has left the station and to stand in its way is folly,” said Matt Patsky, CEO of Trillium Asset Management.
“Nevertheless,” Mr. Patsky added, “we know that now is the time to remind the incoming administration that virtually every company in the Fortune 500 and over $100 trillion in investor assets has acknowledged the reality of climate change.”
There were some prominent companies who have backed climate change efforts missing from this list – such as tech giants Google (NASDAQ:GOOAV) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). But organizers suggested their absence should not necessarily be taken as significant in any way – it’s just one list.
“Long-term stable financial returns are dependent upon a stable and resilient climate,” said Adam Kanzer, Managing Director, Domini Social Investments LLC.
“The goal established by the Paris agreement to limit average temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, with a target of 1.5 degrees, is not simply a good idea, it is an imperative. Today, we recommit ourselves to that goal and urge our government to do the same,” he said.
COP 22 took place as global warming reached what World Meteorological Organization officials said were “very alarming” levels. A dramatic rise in temperatures has made 2016 likely to be the hottest year since records began in the 19th century and close to the 1.5C of warming that the Paris climate accord was supposed to prevent.
The week seems to be ending more positively than it began, on sentiment and on collaboration.
At the start, on Monday, there was a thinly-veiled message from the European Union to America’s presidential-elect on any thoughts of pulling out of the Paris climate accord.
“At the moment we are sending the Americans the message that it’s in the interests of the U.S. to deliver clean energy policies and ambitious climate change policies,” Miguel Arias Cañete, EU climate and energy commissioner, told reporters at COP 22 in Marrakech.
At the end of the week it seems as if much of U.S. business agrees.
Dina Medland is an independent writer, editor and commentator with a strong focus on issues around corporate governance, ethics, the workings of the boardroom and sustainable business. She is on the team of contributors to @ForbesEurope and is an ex-Financial Times staff member who has been a regular contributor in recent years. Further details about her background and a portfolio of work – including her commercially sponsored blog ‘Board Talk’ are available on her website.