Money Talks: New Climate Pledge Enlists 13 US Businesses Worth $2.5 Trillion

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Every time the Obama Administration announces new developments in climate policy, the fossil fuel lobby and its legislative supporters warn of a catastrophic job-killing End Times death blow to the US economy. Well, this oughta take the wind out of their sails. Yesterday, July 27, the Obama Administration assembled 13 major US employers — aka job creators — to launch the new American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

The American Business Act on Climate Pledge is aimed at getting the US business community to back President Obama up on his Climate Action Plan, and to lobby for a “strong outcome” at the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris.

In doing so, it’s a big right back at you to the nation’s powerful fossil fuel lobbying groups, namely the US Chamber of Commerce and ALEC, the American  Legislative Exchange Council.

American Business Act on Climate Change Pledge

American Business Act On Climate Change

The title “American Business Act on Climate Pledge” is awkwardly worded. We’re still not feeling it — did they mean to say Businesses, or maybe Acts — if you have any idea, drop a note in the comment thread. But, it is no empty pledge. The Gang of 13 has committed to specific actions that tote up to at least $140 billion in new low carbon investments.

The Pledge itself is brief and to the point:

We applaud the growing number of countries that have already set ambitious targets for climate action. In this context, we support the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.

We recognize that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment.

The signers of the Climate Pledge have all established climate action track records and as a group you can find them mentioned regularly on CleanTechnica. They are: Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart.

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Adding cred to the effort is the dollars behind those companies. According to the Obama Administration, their combined market cap is at least $2.5 trillion, and together they reaped revenues of more than $1.3 trillion last year.

Down To The Nitty Gritty On Climate Action

The American Business Act on Climate Pledge commits the 13 companies to specific actions. All the details are available from the White House (here’s that link again), but for those of you on the go here’s some of the more interesting highlights:

Alcoa aims to demonstrate “a net reduction of GHG emissions from the use of our products equal to three times the emissions created by their production” by 2025, while developing innovative low-carbon products (like this one, perhaps).

Apple points out that it already operates on 100 percent renewables in the US. To that, the company adds a near-term goal of investments in the US and China that will bring another 280 megawatts of renewable energy on board by the end of 2016. Apple is looking at wind energy storage.

Bank of America will ramp up its current “low-carbon activities.” The company is already a partner in the DOE/NREL solar loan initiative Banking on Solar.  Among other actions, BOA will more than double its environmental business initiative, to $125 billion by 20205.

Cargill has been involved in the manure-to-biogas field, and it’s also part of an agricultural waste-to-fuel project. For the Climate Pledge, the company has a laundry list of improvements over its 2015 baseline, including the goal of ending natural forest loss and tightening up its supply chain to address climate change, particularly regarding palm, soy, and beef.

General Motors first caught our eye  (and our sister site with the launch of the all-electric drive gas/electric Chevy Volt. The company has also been involved in a somewhat batty scrap recycling effort among other waste reduction initiatives. In addition to a list of specific Climate Pledge actions, GM will be focusing on collaborative efforts and transportation electrification.

Goldman Sachs announced a $40 billion renewable energy investment initiative back in 2012 as a ten-year goal. The  company is on track achieve that mark within the next year, so among other Climate Pledge actions it will double down with a larger target for 2025.

Google has pledged a goal of 100 percent renewable energy for its data centers. The company has already hit the 1.1 gigawatt mark (including a solar repurposing of an abandoned oil field), and plans to triple its purchase of renewables by 2025. Electric vehicles and water conservation are among the company’s other Climate Pledge initiatives, and Google also plans to continue developing climate data and research platforms such as Google Earth.

Microsoft was one of the first major companies to take the fossil-friendly US Chamber of Commerce to task over climate change, and to cut ties to the Koch-linked ALEC lobbying organization, so it’s no surprise to see the company make the Climate Pledge short list. Carbon neutrality for its operations and air travel are two of its goals.

PepsiCo will focus on the agricultural supply chain through its Sustainable Farming Initiative.  Other focuses of activity are a zero deforestation goal, reducing vehicle fleet emissions, and powering its operations with solar energy is also a key feature of the company’s Climate Pledge.

UPS has a jump on reduced-emission fleet vehicles and it aims to keep the momentum going, with a 20 percent GHG cut by 2020.

Walmart has a really weird split personality regarding climate issues, but the bottom line beats all comers and the company is piling up some good numbers on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Walmart’s highly detailed Climate Pledge focuses on supply chain issues and increasing its use of renewables, particularly with on site solar energy. Water and deforestation issues also factor in.

Two Climate Pledge Companies To Watch

That’s 11 so far. We save two for last because they each bring something unique to the climate action table.

One of those is Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE), which belongs to the Berkshire Hathaway group backed by legendary US investor Warren Buffet.

Buffett is already a big player in solar (here’s another example) and wind energy, and BHE has pledged to continue along those lines with a particular focus on wind and transmission infrastructure.

What’s really interesting is that the company is ditching coal in favor of renewables, with a near-term pledge to slash more than 75 percent off its coal-fueled capacity in Nevada by 2019.

That comes on the heels of a pledge earlier this year to stop burning coal at five plants in Iowa. Buffett is on record predicting the gradual but permanent demise of coal in the US, apparently with natural gas as the first choice of replacement fuel. However, given BHE’s recent energy buys, it appears that the company is prepping for a relatively quick transition from coal to wind and solar.

Coca-Cola  is the other company that caught our eye. It has been strengthening its climate and water resource commitments, and will intensify those efforts throughout its supply chain for the Climate Pledge.

That’s nice but, the real reason that Coca-Cola jumped out at us relates to its development of bioplastic packaging, which it has dubbed “PlantBottle.”

Coca-Cola’s bioplastic research has already provided a platform for bioplastic collaborations with such diverse enterprises as Heinz, Virent, and Ford among others.

The latest partnership, just announced last week, is a technology development agreement with the company Liquid Light to produce MEG, a PlantBottle component, from carbon dioxide captured from bio-ethanol facilities among others.

All together, between the 13 Climate Pledge signers all of this activity sure adds up to a lot of jobs here in the US of A, so who could hate it?

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Image: Temperature changes 1991-2012, compared to 1901-1960 average (compared to 1951-1980 average for Alaska and Hawaii) via

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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