6 Climate Week stories that businesses can't afford to ignore

6 Climate Week stories that businesses can't afford to ignore

Image of UN headquarters in NYC by Natalia Bratslavsky via Shutterstock.

In his UN Climate Summit speech Wednesday morning, President Obama rebuffed his usual critics about paying attention to a trivial issue like climate change in the face of ISES. "For all the immediate challenges we gather to address this week ... there is one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate."

Referring to the People's Climate March, he said, "Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them."

He promised to announce more aggressive U.S. targets on emissions reductions next year. The current one is 17 percent by 2020.

"We recognize our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to combat it" ... "We can only succeed if we are joined in this effort by every nation, developed and developing alike. No one gets a pass."

Obama was referring to the need for even developing nations to step up with strong targets. "We must be flexible because different nations have different circumstances."

"We cannot condemn our children and their children to a future that is beyond their capacity to repair. Not when we have the means and the technological innovation and scientific imagination to begin repairing it right now." Quoting Martin Luther King Jr, Obama said, "There is such as a thing as being too late."
He touted recent U.S. efforts under his leadership - doubling renewable energy with a goal to double it again by 2020; strong fuel economy standards; regulations on power plant emissions; an agreement onHFCs and new policies on building codes.

He also announced an executive order that requires federal agencies to consider climate change ramifications for all overseas investments and development programs, from seed purchases to building hospitals to fighting malaria.

EU steps up

While Obama is hamstrung by GOP obstruction, the European Union made a stunning announcement. "Our agreed aim is to spend 20 percent of our overall 2014-2020 EU budget on climate action" and action on climate will have a place in every policy, said José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, in his speech.

And the EU committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80-95 percent by 2050, after announcing strong post-2020 targets this summer. Specific measures on achieving that will be released in early 2015.

The EU also pledged about $22 billion to help developing nations. Contributions to the Green Climate Fund (which helps developing nations): $1 billion from France; $100 million from Switzerland; $70 million from Norway; $100 million from South Korea.

Emissions, efficiency, and renewables targets

Countries around the globe announced emission targets. Ireland, the U.K. and Monaco are all targeting 80 percent emissions cuts by 2050, with the U.K. on track for that target versus 1990 levels.

China restated its goal of 40-45 percent emission cuts by 2020 (from 2005 levels), and Malaysia announced a target of 40 percent emission cuts by 2020. Indonesia is on track for 26 percent emission cuts by 2020.

Ethiopia stated a target of net zero emissions by 2025. Georgia plans to become carbon neutral by 2050 by becoming a "hydro giant."

Brunei committed to a two-part goal of 63 percent emissions cuts and at least 10 percent renewables by 2035.

Some countries stated the goals in terms of renewables. Chile committed to 45 percent renewables by 2025; Mexico, 33 percent renewables by 2018; Nicaragua, to 90 percent renewables by 2020.Barbados committed to 29 percent renewables by 2029. St. Lucia is shooting for 35 percent from renewables by 2020.

It's all or nothing for other countries. Denmark restated a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2050, and Tuvalu stated one of 100 percent renewables by 2020. Costa Rica joined in with a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2016.

Canada will implement federal regulations to meet U.S. fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.

An end to deforestation

More than 30 countries signed the New York Declaration on Forests, which for the first time puts a hard deadline on eliminating deforestation. The U.S., Canada and the EU are among the signatories, agreeing to cut deforestation in half by 2020 and fully by 2030. They also agreed to restore 1 million acres over that time.

But one crucial country did not sign: Brazil. They insist they haven't been consulted and are concerned that even sustainable logging won't be allowed. They also insist they want to preserve the Amazon and touted efforts to do so, even as they build roads, transmission infrastructure and dams that crisscross the lungs of the earth.

Norway will provide Liberia with $150 million through 2020 to help halt deforestation.

Corporations commit to 100 percent renewable energy

A dozen corporations got the ball rolling on REE100, a new effort to convince 100 of the world's largest businesses to run completely on renewable energy by 2020.

Ikea and Swiss Re are founding sponsors and are joined by BT, Commerzbank, FIA Formula E, H&M, KPN, Mars, Nestle, Philips, Reed Elsevier, J. Safra Sarasin and Yoox.

Ikea is far along this path, with 1.4 gigawatts installed. It plans to spend another $1.9 billion dollars to meet the goal. Swiss Re gets more than 80 percent of its energy from renewables.

In a related announcement, one of the largest pension funds in the U.S. will further ramp investments in renewable energy. The California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) will increase investments from $1.4 billion now to $3.7 billion within five years. With a price on carbon, they would invest triple that amount, growing to almost $9.5 billion, says Christopher Ailman, Chief Investment Officer.

Reduce methane emissions

The U.S. is giving a $15 million grant to the World Bank to kickstart its "carbon auction facility" - a cap-and-trade program for major methane emitters - factory farms, landfills and waste treatment facilities.

Six global energy firms took a first step to reduce methane emissions by signing onto the "Climate and Clean Air Coalition Oil and Gas Partnership." There are no hard targets, but they signed an agreement to monitor and report on emissions.

The companies are BG Group (UK), ENI (Italy), Pemex (Mexico), PTT (Thailand), Statoil (Norway) and Southwestern Energy (U.S.).

Taxing carbon

73 countries and 22 states, provinces and cities - together responsible for 54 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and 52 percent of GDP - and over 1,000 businesses and investors announced support for a price on carbon, either through a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program. The U.S. is not among the signatories.

Top image of UN headquarters in NYC by Natalia Bratslavsky via Shutterstock. This article first appeared at SustainableBusiness.com.

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