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Look Who's Talking

October 4, 2015 – Business is at long last throwing its weight around on behalf of the climate.  Progress toward mitigating climate change has been a nearly nonexistent process, occurring at nowhere close to the scale it needs to happen.  Governments bewail the fact they have too many constituents to keep happy, while business has wrung its hands over the cost of switching to renewable energy.  Meantime, this weekend alone has seen over 100 people buried in a landslide in Guatemala, 17 killed by flash flooding on the French Riviera, and unknown numbers of missing or dead in South Carolina as a result of torrential rain associated with Hurricane Joaquin.

Corporations haven’t exactly broken any records in their rush to speak out, but ten companies came forward on October 1 with a letter to American and world leaders.
The chief executive officers of these firms are pledging to accelerate actions that will mitigate climate change, and are urging word leaders to do the same with an airtight international agreement this December in Paris at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, abbreviated as COP21.  More than 190 nations will attend yet another attempt at keeping global warming below 2 degrees centigrade (4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Issuance of the letter took place at a bipartisan, bicameral briefing on climate change in Washington, D.C.   The briefing was sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, and Rep. Chris Gibson, Republican of New York.  Six chief executives of the ten companies involved (Mars, General Mills, Unilever, Kellogg, Nestle, New Belgium Brewing, Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar, Stonyfield Farm and Dannon) were present.  Ken Powell, CEO of General Mills, was quoted as saying, ‘To reduce emission levels, we must work across our collective value chains with growers, suppliers, customers, peer companies, government leaders, and industry partners.”

The rate of increase in crop yields is slowing.  This is especially true for wheat, which is sensitive to changes in heat.  By 2030, heat will have slowed crop production in both arid and non-arid regions of the world.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that climate change has already caused declining food supplies, and is contributing to price spikes and social unrest in various parts of the world, most notably Syria.

Mars, Unilever, and Nestle have each pledged to achieve 100 percent renewable energy during all phases of production.  In addition, Mars recently invested in a 211-megawatt wind farm in Texas.  Unilever has set a goal of halving its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.  Nestle has already reduced 2005 greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent.  

Let’s hope their influence is as far-reaching as it needs to be.


With thanks to Ceres (www.ceres.org)

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