Climate

13 Giant Companies Just Made Big Climate Pledges

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

Thirteen giant companies joined the Obama administration’s Act on Climate initiative Monday, announcing at least $140 billion in new low-carbon investment and more than 1,600 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy, the White House said.

The pledge from Coca-Cola, Walmart, Apple, Google, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and other big-name companies comes in advance of the United Nations climate talks in Paris at the end of the year, and is meant to demonstrate industry support for strong carbon reduction goals.

“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,” states the pledge, set to be announced at the White House with Secretary of State John Kerry.

Monday’s announcement is the first of two planned industry pledges, the White House said in a statement. A second round of companies is expected to make pledges in the fall.

The commitments come from a range of industries, including tech, banking, food services, energy, and transportation. Among the pledges, Apple said it will build 140 MW of renewable energy worldwide; PepsiCo will expand its sustainable farming practices to half a million North American acres by 2017 and “strive for” zero forestation by 2020; Google will continue on its path to 100 percent renewable energy and is aiming to decrease its potable water consumption at its California location by 30 percent over 2013 levels.

Bank of America said it will increase green investment from $50 billion to $125 billion by 2025. Goldman Sachs, which has invested $33 billion in clean energy, will also increase its investment goals as well as move to 100 percent renewable energy consumption by 2020. Financing for clean technology is seen as one of the most important components of achieving a low-carbon future.

Addressing climate change has been a key priority for the Obama administration. The United States which has made agreements with China, Brazil, and others to reduce emissions in an effort to keep warming below 2°C and avoid some of the most catastrophic effects of climate change, including drought, flooding, and rising seas.

The businesses’ announcement comes days before the administration is expected to release the finalized Clean Power Plan, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that will limit the allowable levels of carbon emissions from state electricity sectors. The electricity sector is responsible for more than a third of carbon emissions in the United States, and coal provides nearly 70 percent of that portion.

Notably, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, the electricity arm of Warren Buffett’s investment empire, pledged Monday to shutter more than 75 percent of its coal-fired power plants in Nevada by 2019.

All the companies involved in the pledge have a record of acting on climate and environmental issues. Apple, for instance, already gets 100 percent of the electricity for its United States facilities from renewable sources. However, in most cases, these new goals reflect significant additional carbon savings.