Companies and Cities Vow to Cut More Pollution Than India Emits

  • As much as 3.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide cuts promised
  • Countries pledge annual reductions of 3.6 billion tons by 2030

Companies and cities around the world have pledged to cut greenhouse gases by a combined total that exceeds India’s annual emissions, according to research to be released by the United Nations.

The analysis by Yale University shows cities and regions ranging from Sora in Spain, with a population of 175, to the state of California, have pledged to reduce fossil fuel pollution by a combined 2.7 billion metric tons in coming years. Actions by companies may result in another 800 million tons of reduction.

The pledges released at the UN climate talks in Paris on Friday show how mayors and company executives may have a decisive impact on arresting the pace of global warming. The UN hopes the findings spur envoys from 195 nations to take more ambitious steps against pollution.

“The many thousands of governors, mayors, companies and investors who have so publicly committed to climate action are telling governments that our job in Paris is a climate change agreement that opens every possible door to help them push further and faster ahead,” said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is presiding over the talks.

The research didn’t list which specific company actions were analyzed. The data used stems from the UN’s Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action, a website known as the Nazca portal that was set up at last year’s climate talks in Lima, Peru, to register non-governmental commitments to address climate change. The site currently includes actions from companies ranging from oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp.’s use of a carbon price in its projections to Danish toymaker Lego Group’s vow to go carbon neutral next year.

The sample analyzed by Yale included 111 companies with a market capitalization of $6.7 trillion, whose combined actions would lead to a CO2 reduction of 80 million tons. All corporate actions registered in the portal could lead to 10 times that cut, the researchers wrote. 

“These efforts represent only a fraction of the diverse range of climate actions undertaken by groups across the world,” the Yale researchers wrote in the paper released on Friday.

In addition, institutional investors and banks are issuing green bonds worth a total of $21.6 billion, according to the study. As much as $55 billion has been committed to investments in renewable energy, efficient buildings, forests and energy efficiency, the researchers wrote. More than 750 companies and cities use a carbon price in their calculations, with the average specified price being $28.60.

A UN assessment of national pledges in October found that countries are promising to cut annual emissions by as much as 3.6 billion tons in 2030. That would put the planet on a path to cap warming at 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. That’s short of the 2-degree target that is the goal of the negotiations. The UN also reported at the time that the world is set to exhaust by 2030 three quarters of a theoretical carbon budget that would keep a safe lid on warming.

The Yale analysis was prepared for the UN and the French government, which is hosting the talks in Paris. It covers 1,700 companies and investors and more than 2,100 cities and regions. As of Friday, more than 2,400 cities and regions and another 2,400 companies and investors had posted on the Nazca portal in excess of 10,000 separate actions to address global warming.

“Nazca represents a snapshot in time, and is continuously expanding the breadth of action it captures,” the researchers wrote.

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