US companies pledge to make big cuts in carbon emissions

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By Renee Lewis / Al Jazeera America / Oct. 19, 2015

More than 80 companies — including Nike, Ikea and Procter & Gamble — have announced actions they will take to reduce their carbon emissions and have pledged their support for the Paris climate talks this December.

In signing the American Business Act on Climate pledge, sponsored by President Barack Obama, each company agreed Monday to take steps — including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ramping up the use of renewable energy sources, increasing carbon capture methods and limiting waste — to reduce their impact on the environment and help avert the worst effects of global warming.

“Countries and communities around the world are already being affected by deeper, more persistent droughts, pounded by more severe weather, inundated by bigger storm surges and imperiled by more frequent and dangerous wildfires,” the White House said in a news release.

At the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP 21) climate negotiations in Paris this December, world leaders will gather to pledge action on global warming — culminating in the signing of a global climate treaty. Obama has said the United States will cut nearly 6 billion tons of carbon pollution through 2030.

The U.S. needs the needs the private sector to reach that goal. Electricity generation, transportation and industry are the top three contributors to U.S. emissions, accounting for 31 percent, 27 percent and 21 percent, respectively. The agriculture sector accounts for about 9 percent of U.S. emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Climate change control advocates welcomed the companies’ commitments.

“These pledges are important because they demonstrate strong support from the private sector for clean energy climate solutions, further building the momentum on the road to a significant climate agreement in Paris,” John Coequyt, the director of federal and international climate programs for the Sierra Club, said in an emailed statement.

The Climate Group, an international nonprofit organization, said the commitments were a “bold signal” that the world is shifting toward a lower-carbon global economy. “Companies recognize acting on climate makes for a double win: They can reduce and stabilize their energy bills through the use of renewable energy while protecting their enterprises from the fluctuating prices of fossil fuels,” Amy Davidson, the group’s executive director, said in a statement Monday.

Intel, one of the companies that signed the pledge, has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 2010 levels and will cut them by another 10 percent, said Allison Kubota, a spokeswoman for Intel.

“That substantial progress has been accomplished in part due to aggressive efforts to reduce our emissions of fluorinated gases, a critical component in semiconductor manufacturing,’ she said. “Over 35 on-site renewable energy projects have been installed at our sites to date, and we will purchase over 3 billion kilowatt-hours of green power this year.”

All new Intel buildings will be constructed with high energy efficiency standards, and the company will increase energy efficiency in its products 25-fold from a 2010 baseline, Kubota said. Buildings are a significant source of emissions, with commercial and residential structures accounting for more than 12 percent of U.S. emissions, according to the EPA.

Other companies that pledged actions included Biogen, an American global biotech company. It pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2020, from 2006 levels, by investing in sustainable technologies and in efficient facilities and manufacturing processes. About 70 percent of Biogen’s carbon emissions come from its suppliers, the company said.

Steps to promote carbon capture — including stopping deforestation and planting new forests — can also reduce the impact of global warming by removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere. Food giant Cargill pledged to work on developing sustainable supply chains for its products and committed to maintaining a no-deforestation policy for its palm and soy producers.

With wire services

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