Climate Week: Big companies, big commitments
The historic announcements and procurements from businesses showed that climate action is picking up pace, but is it fast enough?
This article is adapted from GreenBiz's weekly newsletter, Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here.
This Climate Week, activists and leaders inundated New York City like rising sea levels. News has been splashing out since about what industries and sectors are leading and who is lagging on the clean energy transition.
And the private sector is showing up in a big way.
In the last week, two major companies announced two of the largest renewable procurement deals in history. Four other companies announced procurements that, on a normal week, would have been headline news.
Google announced its largest deal to date: a 1.6-gigawatt package that makes its renewable portfolio large enough to power Uruguay.
AT&T announced a 960-megawatt package made of two VPPAs, which brings the company’s total portfolio to more than 1.5 GWs.
Honda signed VPPAs for 320 MW of wind and solar in Oklahoma and Texas, enough to cover more than 60 percent of the company’s electricity use in North America.
Microsoft purchased a total of 230 MW in wind and solar PPAs, bringing its renewable portfolio to 1.9 GW.
Ikea invested in two solar plants in the United States, adding 197 MW to its portfolio. The company also invested in a Romanian wind farm, which collectively should provide more than enough electricity to power all of the company’s operations.
McCormick & Company, TJX Companies and Johns Hopkins University signed a renewable energy certificates (REC) deal for 175 MW.
Sprint entered a 173 MW wind VPPA, enough to power about 30 percent of its operations from renewables.
Together, the collective capacity of this week of deals — 3.655 GW — are significantly more than the collective capacity of the second quarter of 2019, the largest quarter for renewable procurements at that point.
Nearly 90 major companies have committed to slashing emissions to levels that could keep global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the "We Mean Business" coalition announced on the eve of the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit. Some companies — including Nestlé and L’Oreal — committed to cut their emissions to net zero by 2050.
Climate Group announced over 20 new signatures to its corporate leadership initiatives RE100 (a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy), EV100 (a push to electrify transportation) and EP100 (a commitment to improve energy efficiency). With the new additions, Climate Group tallies commitments from 284 companies with a combined revenue of $5.5 trillion. Notable additions include 100 percent renewable electricity pledges from Target Corporation and Lululemon, which collectively make up most of my wardrobe.
The announcements from the private sector are a bright spot as countries with the largest greenhouse gas emissions — China, the United States and India — forgot to do their homework and brought no new plans to the Climate Action Summit.
Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry asserted that its resources and scale are needed to address the climate challenge.
A group of 13 of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies gathered this week for the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative to outline their plans to reduce emissions. The plan includes carbon capture, progress on methane leaks and support for policies that put a price on carbon.
The mainstream climate community is skeptical, pointing out that the oil giants’ climate plans outline a gradual weaning off fossil fuels that is inconsistent with the U.N.'s research that says oil and gas production needs to fall by about 20 percent by 2030 and by almost 55 percent by 2050 to meet our climate goals.
Christiana Figueres, former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, wrote a passionate op-ed in the New York Times this week calling out the industry to change or die.
"The shelf life of these companies in their current form may be more than five years — but is certainly no more than 30," wrote Figueres.
Climate Week is a time of big talk. Next comes the hard part — big action.
Find our more at VERGE Energy, which is now only FOUR WEEKS away, and will cover the biggest trends and innovations that are making decarbonization a reality for companies.
[Learn more about renewable energy commitments and procurement at VERGE 19 Oct. 22-24 in Oakland, California. Early bird rates expire today — don't wait.]