Executives from 13 major U.S. corporations announced at least $140 billion in new investments to decrease their carbon footprints as part of a White House initiative to recruit private commitments ahead of a United Nations climate-change summit later this year in Paris.
Companies including Apple Inc., Berkshire Hathaway Energy Co., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. joined Secretary of State John Kerry and top administration officials at the White House Monday for the announcement. In addition to pledges to cut emissions, provide financing to environmentally focused companies, and reduce water consumption, the companies have said they will produce 1,600 megawatts of new, renewable energy -- enough to power almost 1.3 million homes. The White House said it expects to announce a second round of pledges later this fall from additional companies.
“We hope this is the beginning of a substantial mobilization effort,” Brian Deese, a senior adviser to the president, said on a conference call with reporters.
The commitments are being announced as President Barack Obama is working to build momentum toward a legacy-defining global climate accord in Paris. In addition to company-specific commitments, the corporate leaders on Monday signaled their support for a strong climate agreement out of the United Nations talks. The administration is using the pledges to set an example for companies to find ways to eliminate carbon emissions.
U.S. companies stepping up to cut the climate impact of their operations “will help continue to build momentum toward that outcome,” Deese said.
The administration’s actions are pushing the issue into the 2016 presidential debate. Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, released an energy strategy saying she would both defend and go beyond Obama’s efforts. Republican candidates have criticized the administration’s initiatives as costly to the economy and unnecessary.
White House officials said Monday they hadn’t yet had time to review Clinton’s proposal, but said the administration was broadly supportive of efforts to encourage companies to reduce emissions.
Among the pledges, aluminum manufacturer Alcoa Inc. has agreed to reduce emissions by 50 percent from its 2005 levels, while agricultural giant Cargill Inc. says 18 percent of its total energy use will come from renewable sources.
Kevin McKnight, the chief sustainability officer for Alcoa, said the move was about “demonstrating the American business community’s support” for the climate accord in Paris. The international agreement could help “level the playing field” for American manufacturers by requiring companies across the world to adopt more sustainable practices, he said.
Coca-Cola Co. said it will drive down the carbon footprint of its beverage production by 25 percent over the next five years, while Google Inc. says it plans to triple its purchases of renewable energy over the next decade. Berkshire Hathaway says it plans to invest up to an additional $15 billion in the construction and operation of renewable energy generators, while Bank of America Corp. says it will increase its environmental business initiative by $75 billion over the next decade, according to the White House
Other participating firms include Wal-Mart Stores Inc, United Parcel Service Inc., PepsiCo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and General Motors Co.
The corporate commitments won’t be the administration’s only major climate announcement in the next few weeks. The Environmental Protection Agency is set to present final regulations intended to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 later this week.
Officials from companies participating in the White House’s pledge wouldn’t say if they planned to lobby skeptical Republicans in Congress to support the rule -- or ask business-centric organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce to drop their opposition.
“Those organizations are very broad organizations and their constituencies are very broad,” McKnight of Alcoa said.
While visiting Kenya over the weekend, Obama repeatedly praised the country for its efforts to address climate change, saying its effort to curb emissions “has put it in the position of being a leader on the continent.” Next month, the president will travel to Alaska for an international summit on Arctic climate issues.