Climate Week NYC 2016: Genuine Action or More ¨Hot Air¨?

Climate Week 2016Climate Week NYC 2016 kicked off on Monday and corporations are keen to take advantage of the event by touting their commitment to helping realize local, national and international climate change mitigation and adaptation goals. Making greater use of emissions-free renewable energy looms large in their plans.

On Tuesday, Sept. 20 The Climate Group announced that 12 corporations joined its RE100 renewable energy campaign this week, bringing its roster to 81.

In doing so they pledge to transition to 100 percent renewable energy use. High-tech industry multinationals Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), VMWare, and Rackspace were among them, as were apparel and footwear brand names including The North Face, Timberland, and Wrangler. Apple and Bank of America announced they joined RE100 during Climate Week NYC 2016’s opening ceremony on Monday, Climate Group highlights in a news release. Wells Fargo followed BoA’s lead on Tuesday.

The Climate Group’s global renewable energy and energy productivity campaigns

Some of the world’s largest multinational corporations also signed up for the Climate Group’s recently launched EP100 campaign, via which participants aim to double energy productivity. Dalmia Cement, Mahindra Holiday and Resorts India, Danfoss Group and Hongbo Group all joined EP100, Climate Group announced Tuesday.

Swiss Re rooftop solar Folkestone, UK
Swiss Re rooftop solar Folkestone, UK

Doubling energy productivity by 2030 could yield annual energy savings of $327 billion and create as many as 1.3 million jobs while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by around one-third, Climate Group points out, a win-win situation.

“Learning from RE100 experts and other members is going to be critical as we work toward meeting our 2020 sustainability commitments, including our goal of powering 100 percent of our global operations with renewable electricity by 2017 and transitioning to long-term agreements that directly fund new renewable electricity projects by 2020,” Wells Fargo SVP Mary Wenzel, who leads the bank’s Environmental Affairs group, was quoted as saying.

“It is widely acknowledged that we will not succeed in keeping a global temperature rise below two degrees without significant corporate leadership on energy, and that is what we are seeing here today,” The Climate Group’s Acting CEO Damian Ryan pointed out.

“Dozens of world leading companies joining RE100 and EP100 are showing there’s a clear business case to invest in cleaner, smarter energy pathways that will accelerate the transition to net-zero emissions economies. When it comes to renewables and energy productivity, investors and policymakers must respond to rising corporate demand and ensure that supportive policies are in place.”

Genuine commitments or ¨greenwash¨?

A report from the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP) released Sept. 6 suggests that when push comes to shove investors’ commitments to promote actions regarding climate change and renewable energy fold, however.

At least half the world’s largest investors violated their responsible investment commitments when they defeated a shareholder campaign that would have required Exxon Mobil executives to assess the risks climate change poses for the company, according to AODP.

Exxon-Mobile stock buyback double entire global renewable energy research funding

A “crisis of accountability” is apparent among pension and retirement investment fund managers when it comes to climate change, according to AODP. More than 1,000 ignored letters from other Exxon Mobil shareholders calling on them to vote for a climate assessment proposal, which was voted down during the corporation’s annual general meeting of shareholders this May.

Thirty-eight percent of shareholders at the Exxon Mobil AGM voted for the proposal against the advice of the corporate executives. The proposal would have required “the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company to disclose how resilient its investments would be if policy measures to restrict global warming to 2ºC were put in place,” AODP elaborates.

Half the Exxon Mobil shareholders that voted against the climate risk assessment proposal have signed and committed to upholding the UN-supported Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI). They breached PRI guidelines and principles by voting against shareholders’ climate risk assessment proposal, AODP asserts.

Among them were Blackrock and Vanguard, two of the world’s largest investment managers. PRI signatories, together they own 11 percent of Exxon Mobil’s shares.

“Asset managers and asset owners who helped Exxon defeat this modest climate resolution are not only risking their own money, they are betraying the millions of ordinary people whose pensions are invested in Exxon stock,” AODP CEO Julian Poulter stated. “Our analysis also reveals disturbing hypocrisy, with many investors ignoring responsible investment commitments they have made.”

All this said, RE100 members are making genuine progress and moving forward towards achieving their 100 percent renewable energy commitments, The Climate Group noted. RE100 founding partner Swiss Re, for instance, on Tuesday announced plans to build and operate its own 2-megawatt (MW) solar power facility at the insurance/reinsurance company’s U.S. headquarters in Armonk, NY.

*Image credits: 1) Climate Week NYC 2016; 2) Swiss Re; 3) Institute for Policy Studies

Andrew Burger
Andrew Burger
A product of the New York City public school system, Andrew Burger went on to study geology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, work in the wholesale money and capital markets for a major Japanese bank and earn an MBA in finance.

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