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.
For more business tools around environmental innovation and sustainability, visit edfbusiness.org.