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Climate Week: Climate Neutral Now, RE100 Initiatives Recruit Fortune 500 Companies
September 23, 2015
Two initiatives for reducing businesses’ impacts on the environment have attracted globally recognized brands this week at Climate Week NYC.
On Tuesday, the United Nations (UN) announced a new initiative to help businesses and individuals reduce their carbon footprints, Climate Neutral Now. An online platform will facilitate the measurement, reduction, and offset of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Climate Neutral Now has been backed by companies including adidas Group, Sony, Microsoft, and Marks & Spencer. adidas and Sony have goals to become carbon-neutral companies, while Microsoft and M&S have already achieved carbon neutrality. The companies were asked to show their support by the UN Climate Change Secretariat as leading examples.
“We have accomplished [Microsoft’s carbon-neutral goal] by boosting efficiencies, investing in renewable energy and funding a carbon offset program,” said Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist at Microsoft. “We are supporting Climate Neutral Now because we believe in the power of accountability and have witnessed the transformative nature of carbon offset projects and sustainable community development, particularly in emerging nations.”
The goal of the project is to encourage voluntary action to avoid the worst of climate change and transition to carbon neutrality by 2050. Currently, the world is on track to exceed the 2 degree Celsius average warming limit. The UN is urging individuals, companies and governments to:
- Measure their climate footprint;
- Reduce their GHG emissions as much as possible; and
- Offset what they cannot reduce using UN-certified emissions reductions.
The online platform includes links to organizations that can provide businesses with climate footprint measurement and reduction advice and support. More importantly, it offers Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs), for UN-verified carbon offsets. Recent research conducted by Imperial College London shows that every tonne of CO2 offset via the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) not only funds GHG reductions, but can deliver up to $664 in additional economic, social and environmental benefits.
“Climate neutrality is a long-term vision of the world we want this century and backed by science. The new universal agreement to be inked in Paris this December at COP21 needs to be a springboard to that future. It is going to require action today and tomorrow and everyone needs to get on board – from governments and corporations to cities, regions and individuals,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“Climate change will affect everyone, yet everyone can effect positive change starting today and beginning now.”
Then on Wednesday, it was announced that Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Inc., Proctor & Gamble, Salesforce, Starbucks, Steelcase, Voya Financial, and Walmart joined RE100, an initiative launched at last year’s Climate Week NYC by The Climate Group in partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project.
Companies that join RE100 pledge to source 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy to reduce CO2 emissions. There were 13 original corporate partners at the initiative’s 2014 launch, including IKEA Group, Swiss Re, BT Group, Formula E, H&M, Nestlé, Philips, RELX Group, J. Safra Sarasin, Unilever, YOOX Group, and the first US business on board, Mars, Inc. Now, a total of 36 major businesses have signed on.
“Research shows that the most ambitious companies have seen a 27 percent return on their low carbon investments – no wonder new names keep joining RE100. Lowering risk, protecting against price rises, saving millions and boosting brand is what shaping a low carbon economy is all about. Today these companies are signalling loud and clear to COP21 negotiators that forward-thinking businesses back renewables and want to see a strong climate deal in Paris,” said Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group.
The companies have various target years for becoming 100 percent renewable; Steelcase, fr example, became 100 percent powered by renewable electricity in 2014, while others are years away. Voya International’s goal is to become 100 percent renewable by this year; Goldman Sachs by 2020; Nike by 2025; and J&J by 2050.
Jim Keane, President and CEO of Steelcase Inc, said: “For Steelcase, joining RE100 is a reflection of our ongoing commitment to renewable energy. Our current investment in renewables equaling 100 percent of our global electricity use is an important part of our energy strategy. At the same time, we are passionate about continually finding new ways to reduce energy usage in every part of our business. We look forward to sharing and learning with The Climate Group and other leading global organizations and are proud to join forces in promoting a clean energy future for all.”
“We have a long-term vision to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy and have a goal of 30 percent renewable energy by 2020,” said Len Sauers, Vice President of Global Sustainability at P&G. “Efforts like RE100 are key to helping scale efforts and allow peer-to-peer networking with like-minded companies.”