WASHINGTON, DC, July 28, 2015 (ENS) – Thirteen of America’s largest companies Monday pledged to invest a total of more than $140 billion to slash their greenhouse gas emissions, increase their use of renewable energy and shrink their carbon footprints.

At the White House, Secretary of State John Kerry and senior White House officials hosted executives from those 13 companies to launch the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. They are: Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart.

The companies making pledges represent more than $1.3 trillion in revenue in 2014 and a combined market capitalization of at least $2.5 trillion, according to the White House.


Wildfire sunset, Henderson, Nevada, June 14, 2015 (Photo by James Marvin Phelps)

“Climate change is a global challenge that demands a global response, and President Obama is committed to leading the fight,” the White House said in a statement announcing the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

As the world looks toward global climate negotiations in Paris this December, “American leadership at all levels will be essential,” the White House said. In Paris, all world leaders are expected to agree on a universal, legally-binding pact to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The measures taken by both public and private sectors enabled President Obama last November to set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 26-28 percent by 2025. He did so alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping, who, for the first time, committed China to peaking their emissions by around 2030.

The pledge recognizes those countries that have already put forward climate targets, and expresses support for a strong outcome in the Paris climate negotiations. To date, countries representing nearly 70 percent of global carbon pollution from the energy sector have announced post-2020 climate policies ahead of the Paris summit.

In addition, hundreds of private companies, local governments, and foundations are increasing energy efficiency, boosting low-carbon investing, and making renewable energy more accessible.

In a clear indication of the U.S. energy future, renewable sources such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind, accounted for nearly 70 percent of new electrical generation placed in service in the United States during the first six months of 2015.

At the White House on Monday, high tech rivals Apple, Google and Microsoft all made serious pledges to combat climate change.

Apple, already running all of its U.S. operations on 100 percent renewable energy, will bring an estimated 280 megawatts of clean power generation online by the end of 2016 through investments in Arizona, California, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon and Sichuan Province, China.

Since 2011, Apple has reduced carbon emissions from its global corporate facilities, data centers and retail stores by 48 percent, the company said.

Google made pledges in four areas: renewable energy, transportation and water use as well as products and platforms.

Google is committed to powering its operations with 100 percent renewable energy in the future, the company said, without mentioning a date. Google committed to tripling purchases of renewable energy by 2025.

“We believe that by directly investing in renewable energy projects, we can help accelerate the shift to zero-carbon power and create a better future for everyone,” Google stated.


Google bus shuttles employees through San Francisco to the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, Dec. 2014 (Photo by Lynn Friedman)

In transportation, Google relies on shuttles and corporate electric vehicles to avoid CO2 emissions. In its Bay Area headquarters Google committed to reducing single occupancy vehicle commuting by 10 percent, by encouraging employees to carpool, to use shuttles and public transit and bike or walk to work.

Google said its products help drive carbon mitigation efforts and inform climate science and committed to continuing to develop such products and platforms.

“Our Google Earth Engine geospatial analysis platform makes more than 40 years of satellite imagery available online so scientists and researchers can analyze real-time changes to the Earth’s surface,” the company said.

Through the Climate Data Initiative, Google has provided one petabyte of cloud storage for data and climate/weather models, plus 50 million hours of high-performance cloud computing.

Microsoft pledged to maintain carbon neutral operations for its datacenters, offices, labs, manufacturing facilities, and business air travel and to purchase 100 percent renewable energy.

Microsoft said the company would offset 100 percent of emissions from business air travel through supporting carbon offset projects that also drive social benefits in emerging nations.

On the transportation side, General Motors pledged to maximize vehicle efficiencies, reduce carbon emissions and help make electrified vehicles become more mainstream.

Chevy Bolt

General Motors’ electric concept car, the Chevrolet Bolt, 2015 (Photo courtesy GM)

GM aims to reduce energy intensity and carbon intensity from its facilities 20 percent and promote the use of 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020 over a 2010 baseline.

GM also intends to reduce total waste 40 percent by 2020 over a 2010 baseline, achieve 150 landfill-free facilities by 2020 and aim to have all manufacturing sites send zero waste to landfill.

The aluminum company Alcoa pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent in the United States by 2025, compared to a  2005 baseline.

By 2025, Alcoa said it would “demonstrate a net reduction of GHG emissions from the use of our products equal to three times the emissions created by their production.”

And Alcoa promised to develop materials, products and technologies that move us toward a low carbon sustainable future.

Since 2007, Bank of America has provided more than $39 billion in financing for low-carbon activities to help address climate change. Now Bank of America pledges to increase its current environmental business initiative from $50 billion to $125 billion by 2025.

The bank said it intends to attract more capital to clean energy investments by developing innovative financing structures and building new markets for green bonds.

Coca-Cola pledged to reduce the carbon footprint of “the drink in your hand” by 25 percent by 2020.

Rival company Pepsico said it would continue to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from its global fleet through the use of electric, hybrid, compressed natural gas and alternative fuel vehicles.

Pepsico will strive for zero deforestation in its business operations and global supply chain by 2020, use more solar power and phase out ozone destroying and climate-damaging refrigerants in its U.S. installations, also by 2020.

Another food company, Cargill, pledged that by 2020 it would improve greenhouse gas intensity, energy efficiency and freshwater efficiency by five percent as compared to today’s levels. The company intends to increase renewable energy to 18 percent of its total energy use, up from 14 percent today.


Deforestation for soya cultivation in the Brazilian Amazon (Photo courtesy Earth Institute Columbia University)

Cargill is a signatory to the UN’s New York Declaration on Forests, committed to “doing its part to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and strive to end it by 2030.” The company helped develop and implement the Brazilian Soy Moratorium, a voluntary zero-deforestation agreement that contributed to less deforestation in the Amazon region.

Cargill said it is addressing climate issues in the critical supply chains of palm, soy and beef.

Cargill said it is building a “traceable and transparent palm oil supply chain firmly committed to no deforestation of high conservation value lands or high carbon stock area; no development on peat, and no exploitation of rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.”

Berkshire Hathaway Energy pledged to invest up to an additional $15 billion in renewable energy generation, including new wind power facilities in Iowa, and retire more than 75 percent of the compay’s coal-fueled generating capacity in Nevada by 2019.

Bershire Hathaway will also invest in transmission infrastructure in the West and Midwest to support the integration of renewable energy onto the power grid.

The investment banking firm Goldman Sachs in 2012 established a 10 year goal to finance and invest $40 billion in clean energy globally. The company has now mobilized $33 billion of capital for solar, wind, smart grid and other clean technologies. “We expect to achieve the full goal within the next year and will commit to establish a larger 2025 target to deploy capital to clean tech and renewable energy,” the company said Monday.

Goldman Sachs will also harness financial mechanisms to help its clients strengthen their physical resiliency and more effectively manage risks relating to weather extremes.

Goldman Sachs pledged carbon neutrality across all its operations and business travel in 2015 and to maintain it thereafter. By 2020, the firm aims to use 100 percent renewable power.

President Obama is doing more than other presidents to stave off climate change. His Climate Action Plan, announced in 2014, is expected to cut six billion tons of CO2 emissions through 2030, an amount equal to taking all the cars in the United States off the road for more than four years.

Secretary Kerry backs a strong agreement in Paris. In June he said, “Climate change poses a threat to every country on Earth, and we all need to do what we can to take advantage of the small window of opportunity we still have to stave off its worst, most disastrous impacts. But even as we take unprecedented steps to mitigate the climate threat, we also have to ensure our communities are prepared for the impacts we know are headed our way – and the impacts we are already seeing all over the world in the form of heat waves, floods, historic droughts, ocean acidification and more.”

He said the United States is “deeply committed” to helping the rest of the world – especially the poorest and most vulnerable nations – adapt to the changing climate as well.

Kerry made these comments as he helped to launch the Climate Services for Resilient Development partnership, along with the UK government and the American Red Cross, the Asian Development Bank, Esri, Google, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Skoll Global Threats Fund.

Reacting to the Obama Administration’s efforts to limit climate change, environmental groups were optimistic.

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “The business of combating climate change is the business of America. That’s the message the world is hearing today. The formation of  ‘The American Business Act on Climate Pledge’ is another giant step toward a global, all-in effort to slow, stop and reverse climate change. This leadership should spur other business commitments demonstrating to the world that even as climate change threatens us all, we can solve it together. On to Paris.”

Mindy Lubber, president of the sustainability advocacy nonprofit group Ceres, said, “This $140 billion in low-carbon investments are exactly the kinds of commitments we need to boost clean energy projects and other low-carbon solutions globally.”

“Scaling such investments by an additional $1 trillion a year – what we call the Clean Trillion – is the only way to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” she said.

“While this business leadership is encouraging,” said Lubber, “voluntary commitments alone will not get us the meaningful reductions we need. Strong carbon-reducing policies are hugely important, beginning with final EPA rules to curb U.S. power plant emissions by 30 percent.”

This fall, the Obama Administration will release a second round of pledges, with a goal of mobilizing many more companies to join the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

In addition, on October 20-21, Secretary Kerry will convene a forum at the State Department to highlight American leadership in climate investment and innovative solutions to the toughest climate finance challenges.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2015. All rights reserved.