Looking beyond Trump: Companies take leadership on Paris climate commitments

Taylor Fulton

On the 1st June, with the entire world watching, the President of the United States formally announced the country would join the ranks of just two other nations – Nicaragua and Syria – in being a non-signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement.

Needless to say, people were less than pleased – and the global response teetered somewhere between dismay and fury.

Fortunately, though, the president’s decision to turn his back on climate change action has energized corporations to take a step into the limelight.

It started earlier this year when 16 Fortune 100 companies – inducing BP, General Mills, Shell and Walmart – sent the administration a letter urging it to reaffirm its commitment to the agreement, stating that climate change “presents the United States with both business risks and business opportunities”.

Not soon after, other Fortune companies like Apple, the Coca-Cola Company, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, Disney and even Exxon, reiterated the point even more firmly to the president – this time in the form of a full page ad published in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. These “power of the purse” these corporations represent can’t be understated. Collectively, the powerhouses account for more the $13 trillion in assets and represent a breadth of industries and sectors that make it all the more clear that climate change doesn’t discriminate.

And though there may be some positive short-term benefits (eliminating America’s , the long-term consequences could negatively affect American businesses and the US and global economies.

Multinational companies, for example, whose products don’t measure up to standards agreed upon by countries in the EU and Asia would be at risk of losing their competitive advantage in global markets. There will be repercussions across sectors – from aerospace to wholesale – and CEOs across the country took to Twitter to reiterate that to the administration.

The fight (thankfully!) won’t start and end with the Fortune 500. In light of the announcement, major American cities, states, and civil society are doubling down on their support of the Agreement in a number of ways:

  • Business Backs Low-Carbon USA – a national pledge campaign calling for an energy-efficient US economy, powered by clean, renewable energy – advocates for investing in clean energy to create jobs and boost the United States’ economic competitiveness.
  • More than 250 companies have already started developing science-based targets – strategic goals aligned with the level of de-carbonization required to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre- industrial temperatures.
  • More than 30 mayors, 3 US governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses and corporations have reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement, demonstrating a growing trend of state action to counter unpopular federal action.
  • Michael Blomberg, former mayor of New York, has suggested that his charity, Bloomberg Philanthropies, is willing to donate the $14 million contribution needed to fund America’s share in the agreement.

Everyone is stepping up to the plate – whether the administration is on board or not. And the swift response of governments, businesses, civil society, and corporations to Thursday’s news demonstrates a collective understanding of the magnitude of climate change, not as just another partisan policy issue, but a global phenomenon we must collectively tackle head on.

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