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Why U.S. Businesses Want Strong Climate Action in Copenhagen
Mindy Lubber, 14 Dec 09

293643274_0f92d7cfdc.jpg So why are Nike, Johnson Controls and Sempra Energy sending top execs to Copenhagen to monitor the international climate talks.

To block a strong climate deal, right? No, wrong.

Dozens of U.S. companies are here advocating for a tough international pact that reduces pollution and accelerates clean energy innovation. The political uncertainty surrounding climate change regulation — both in the U.S. and globally – is stifling their businesses.

"We're looking to come out with a deal," said Clay Nesler, vice president of global energy and sustainability at Johnson Controls Inc., a Wisconsin-based company with 133,000 global employees. "We'd like to see the uncertainty reduced. Businesses around the world want this to be settled so they can start reducing their emissions."

Many of the companies here are unequivocal about the need for dramatically reducing global carbon emissions.

North Face sees the climate threat first-hand through its customers who are skiers, hikers and rock climbers. "U.S. ski resorts are closing at a dramatic pace. Our winters are two weeks shorter," said Letitia Webster, the company's director of corporate sustainability.

The company's suppliers -- including Nepalese farmers who provide soft Cashmere fabric for its clothing -- are also seeing the effects. "Droughts and flooding are impacting these communities," she said.

But, like a climber scaling the North Face in the Swiss Alps, the companies are confident of their ability — of corporate America's ability — to solve the climate challenge. They simply need the right equipment.

Even without a clear map, these firms are finding ways to lower water use, energy use and pollution levels across their entire businesses. Johnson Controls recently teamed up with Jones Lang LaSalle and the Rocky Mountain Institute to achieve a 30 percent reduction in energy use at New York City's iconic Empire State Building. The project will pay for itself in three years.

Nike recently opened a new distribution center in Tennessee that uses 50 percent less energy per square foot than its predecessor facility. An even bigger focus is cutting energy use at hundreds of factories in China, Vietnam and other countries. "We need to be aggressively pursuing efficiencies across our entire supply chain," said Hannah Jones, Nike's vice president of sustainable business and innovation.

But, without stronger policies that reward and incentivize such efficiencies, the large-scale pollution reductions that are needed — in developed and developing countries alike — will never be possible.

Before heading out of Copenhagen, Jones wants to be sure our U.S. negotiators get this message:

"The U.S. delegation, 'We've got your back," she said. "We need the policy signal to unleash the next wave, the next economic revolution. Copenhagen is crucial."

This piece originally appeared on Climate Progress.

Image Credit: Darwin Bell via Flickr, Creative Commons License

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Comments

Yeah, this is actually not too surprising. But I've also seen a dozen ads from the Petroleum industry and the Chamber of Commerce ranting on and on about how cap-and-trade will result in "2 million lost jobs," and "$4.00 gasoline."

First, I cannot for the life of me understand how a single job will be lost to cap-and-trade, especially in the economic long run (the time scale upon which climate change will play out). If a company has to lay off workers in order to offset the costs of purchasing tradeable emissions permits, they will then spend those costs on the permits. Where will that money then go? Oh, that's right, to companies than can sequester their carbon. These companies will employ people, one way or another. When money is spent on a permit, it simply does not disappear. It eventually goes to employ another person somewhere.

Furthermore, as for $4 gas, that will happen whether or not we enact cap-and-trade legislation. Fossil fuels are by definition not renewable, so eventually they will decrease in supply. This will cause them to increase in price.

So businesses should be on board with making this transition in a smoother, market-driven way through cap-and-trade than for letting the economy collapse in a sudden oil shock...


Posted by: Matt Petryni on 14 Dec 09

This is great. I am glad such equitable companies as these are being so proactive in making our world a better place, for financial reasons or not.

"I am here to serve."
The Window Man


Posted by: The Window Man on 14 Dec 09

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