Calling all corporate leaders: Full speed ahead on greenhouse gas reductions

Guest bloggers Emily Reyna and Jacob Hiller of the Environmental Defense Fund report on the end of the EPA’s Climate Leaders program for voluntary corporate emissions limits.

Last October, EPA held its final Climate Leaders meeting.  While many were concerned about the sudden dissolution of the program, some saw it as inevitable.   The consensus is that the EPA Climate Leaders program has provided significant value to companies over the past eight years.  Beginning with 11 charter members in 2002, the program grew to 275 companies in 2010, with annual GHG reductions totaling 18 million metric tons of CO2 annually – enough to power over 2 million homes for one year.

The program clearly demonstrated that companies can lead the way in reducing greenhouse emissions.  But without national climate legislation in place, companies seeking to act responsibly and prepare strategically for a carbon-constrained economy face a bewildering landscape.   And with the sunset of Climate Leaders, many companies feel an unanticipated void.  To whom should emissions be reported? What defines an ambitious industry standard? Who can verify that reduction targets are met?

In this uncertain environment, companies might be tempted to alter their course for the worse””downgrading their environmental commitments or scaling back investments in technology and innovation geared towards making their operations cleaner and more efficient. Yet doing so would be a serious mistake. Like the two characters in Waiting for Godot, companies cannot afford to become trapped in a limbo of inaction, waiting for government to lead the way.

In fact, companies today have numerous tools at their disposal to leapfrog their competition in the realms of transparency, cost savings and new value creation. From international reporting protocols and national carbon registries to high-profile business partnerships and coalitions, opportunities abound for companies to become leaders in corporate sustainability within their industries.

This continuously evolving landscape has been detailed in Environmental Defense Fund’s newly updated “Roadmap to Corporate Greenhouse Gas Programs.” This document guides companies through the steps of measuring and disclosing emissions, setting reduction targets, implementing successful abatement programs and reporting results.  It also lists the leading registries and climate organizations that are closing the gap EPA Climate Leaders left behind. Like those companies that achieved such impressive results through Climate Leaders, the companies that start down this road – and stay on it – will shape the future of business rather than hiding on the sidelines.

Waiting in limbo benefits no one””least of all the future of our climate and the health of our planet.  Smart companies can lead the way by getting on the road to greenhouse gas reductions today.  Start your engines – your roadmap is here, and there’s no speed limit.

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5 Responses to Calling all corporate leaders: Full speed ahead on greenhouse gas reductions

  1. Tom Kimmerer says:

    The energy industry is in a greater state of uncertainty than ever. Many biomass energy projects are on hold because of a lack of action by Congress, as well as considerable uncertainty about what EPA intends to do, or will be able to do. Both the Tailoring Rule, which took effect Jan. 2, and the boiler MACT rule, which is on hold for another year, treat biomass combustion just like coal combustion, not as a climate-neutral ‘wedge’. Utilities, many of whom were testing biomass cofiring, are holding back on doing anything to reduce GHG emissions. Regulated utilities are in an especially tough position, because the public service commissions in many states will not allow them to purchase higher-cost energy from renewable sources. The outlook for utility renewable energy generation is somewhat better in states with strict renewable energy standards. Until the EPA clarifies its intentions, uncertainty and inaction will prevail.

  2. Anne says:

    Beginning with 11 charter members in 2002, the program grew to 275 companies in 2010, with annual GHG reductions totaling 18 million metric tons of CO2 annually – enough to power over 2 million homes for one year.

    How does CO2 reduction power homes?

  3. Esop says:

    Indeed. The 2010/11 European winter has so far shown us that it is not only higher temperatures in the summer, but also unpredictable and dangerous conditions in the early winter that results from emitting 30 billion tons of a known, strong greenhouse gas into the atmosphere every single year. The AGW induced changes to the Arctic circulation caused dangerous coldsnaps in late November and December. However, as predicted by sound, AGW based forecasting, we got much warmer weather in most of Europe after New Year, when most of the Arctic froze up, stabilizing wind patterns. Central Europe is now suffering massive flooding since the very warm weather is rapidly melting the snow that fell in December.
    Anti-science disinformers paid by the fossile fuel industry predicted a super cold January, but are proven dead wrong every day now. Highly embarrassing for them and their ridiculous and borderline criminal forecasts, used to sell their global cooling scare and likely to help boost sales of coal in places like England.

  4. Bob Lang says:

    Anne #2

    Go to EPA’s “Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator”

  5. Inaction on half-baked biomass projects is an environmental blessing.

    Real progress in long-term net emissions reductions is needed, and there are no shortcuts to the systems thinking, comprehensive analysis, and even-handed standards that it takes to first define and then achieve real progress.