Powering forward on America’s climate commitments

ShutterstockSergey Nivens

There’s a reason the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is the most common financing option for American homeowners. It comes down to two simple words: price certainty.

The same concept is driving America’s largest companies to choose renewable energy to power their operations over fossil fuels. Today, half of America’s Fortune 500 companies have set climate and clean energy goals, with many looking to lock in certainty about how much they’ll pay for their energy. This offers significant business value compared to the heavy price swings companies subject themselves to when hitching their energy wagons to fossil fuels.

On top of that, companies are seeing real savings by reducing their energy footprint and pursuing renewables: 190 companies report saving nearly $3.7 billion every year. (Read more in the new report, "Power Forward 3.0: How the largest U.S. companies are capturing business value while addressing climate change," authored by World Wildlife Fund, CDP, Calvert and Ceres.)

This mainstreaming of clean energy isn’t just for business. It has an essential role to play in helping accelerate the United States’ action on climate change, despite the rollback of federal action. Through their investments, these same 190 iconic American companies are cutting annual climate pollution the equivalent of taking 45 coal-fired power plants off line.

Economists and scientists alike long have known that the speed and scale of the climate challenge cannot be solved by governments alone. To meet the climate targets set forth under the historic Paris Agreement, the world must swiftly transition to a zero-carbon economy; that will require driving innovative approaches across all sectors of society.

America’s largest, most successful businesses are showing the way to do it: aligning their bottom lines with the Paris Agreement’s global temperature goals while driving innovation and capturing business value in the process.  Of the 210 global companies that have set or pledged to set targets aligned with the best available climate science in the next two years, 82 are in the Fortune 500. Twenty-three Fortune 500 companies have committed to powering their operations with 100 percent renewable energy, compared to only a handful of companies a few years ago.

While the trend lines are positive, there’s still room for corporate America to accelerate its own pace. Businesses already pursuing ambitious reduction targets should work with their supply chains to follow their lead. Companies can help increase access to cost-competitive renewables by harnessing their demand together through joint initiatives. These businesses also have a major role to play in scaling up renewable energy and energy efficiency across the country by voicing support for local, state and national policies that accelerate a low-carbon American economy.

The question is no longer if the transition to a low-carbon economy will occur, but how quickly we embrace the positive opportunities that come with guaranteeing a stable planet for this and future generations. Today, the leaders in corporate America are driving the clean energy innovation and industries of the 21st century. The transition to the low carbon economy is inevitable, and those businesses that hitch their wagon to this new engine of growth will reap the largest rewards.

Learn more about models for market transformation at VERGE Hawaii in Honolulu, Hawaii, June 20-22, 2017.