Corporations Make Climate and Sustainability Commitments at UN

Apple’s Concord Jing Tang wind farm produces 48 megawatts of clean energy      Image: Apple

The UN General Assembly’s #ClimateWeek may have been dedicated to governments making new commitments to meeting the Paris Accord, but many corporations also announced actions they will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve their sustainability.  According to The Climate Group, an NGO that works with businesses and governments to shift their climate policies,  “[a]lmost 300 multinationals across every major sector are now committed to action, representing US$5.5 trillion in combined revenue, with operations in more than 140 markets and more than 16 million employees – almost double the workforce of New York State.”  Just one example of corporate action announced this week:  Apple and 10 of its suppliers in China will invest nearly $300 million by 2022 to develop projects totaling 1 gigawatt of renewable energy.

Why This Matters:  While this is all good news, even The Climate Group admits that “a vast global scale-up is still needed” to deliver on the Paris Agreement and have even a shot at limiting global temperature rise to 1.5˚C.  Despite these commitments announced here, according to The Washington Post, climate experts argue that many companies have still not made such commitments, and those that have must be even more ambitious.  The Post cites a poll they conducted this summer to point out that 72 percent of the public believe that businesses and corporations are doing too little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The public is right.  It is time for everyone to step up their efforts, including corporations and financial institutions.

More Actions Needed From Business

The Post quoted Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, who argued that corporations’ moving slowly is not sufficient and more is needed, saying, “[w]inning slowly is the same as losing,” he added, saying that the private sector needs to move “at a speed that’s similar to war footing.”  Angel Gurría, secretary-general of the trade multinational Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, pointed to two specific problems regarding infrastructure financing and small and medium-sized companies.

  • “the millions and trillions in the pension funds are not getting to the question of financing infrastructure, and financing infrastructure for climate change in particular.” Gurría said that “we’re basically needing a better way of channeling those resources.”
  • “Gurría said that while big companies fear for their reputation and worry about consumer backlash, small and medium-size companies don’t feel such pressures unless brought by big ones in their supply chains.”

The United Nations touted an initiative by leading banks — the Principles for Responsible Banking, with 130 banks collectively holding USD 47 trillion in assets, or one-third of the global banking sector, announced as participants.

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