Tom Lyon, ARCS President, Issues Statement in Concert with "Step Up Declaration" from Global Climate Action Summit

Tom Lyon, ARCS President, Issues Statement in Concert with "Step Up Declaration" from Global Climate Action Summit

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - 3:00pm

This past week thousands of delegates were in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit. Spearheaded by California Governor Jerry Brown, the Summit showcases the commitments of states, cities and businesses to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and protect the Earth from further dangerous warming. This is an urgently needed response to the U.S. vow to become the only country in the world to back out of its climate commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Many large U.S. companies participated in the Summit, and corporate sponsors include Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, United Airlines, Bank of America, Tech Mahindra, Wells Fargo and Bank of the West. As the President of the Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS), a consortium of leading business schools, I am excited to see so much participation by the private sector. After all, it has been estimated that the world’s 100 largest-emitting publicly traded companies account for as much as a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions (UNEP, 2017). It is appropriate that these companies take responsibility for their climate impacts.

At the summit, 21 companies in the technology sector, led by Salesforce, announced a set of new climate commitments in the form of the Step Up Declaration. The coalition voiced support for the Mission 2020 goal of “bending the climate curve” by 2020, in order to put the planet on a trajectory toward a cooler world. Each of the individual members announced its own specific commitment, ranging from Salesforce’s promise to use 100% renewable energy by 2020 to Tech Mahindra’s goal of cutting GHG emissions 50% by 2050.  Importantly, the participants recognize they need to work “collaboratively with others— across all sectors of society, including individuals, corporations, civil society, and governments.” This is a welcome step, but how far can it take us towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement?

The Emissions Gap
The Paris Agreement of 2015 represented a radical new approach to international climate policy. Instead of seeking international agreement on an umbrella policy that would cover the whole world, countries were invited to offer whatever “Nationally Determined Contribution” (NDC) they liked. Every country in the world has made an NDC (including the U.S., although the Administration plans to pull out on November 5, 2020, the earliest date it can). The goal is to cut the current emissions level of about 53 billion tons (known as giga-tons, or GT) of carbon dioxide per year to at or below 42 GT per year by 2030. As one might expect from a purely voluntary agreement, however, the sum total of the individual NDCs falls short what would be required to meet the goal of holding global warming “well below” 2oC (preferably 1.5oC). Careful estimates suggest that if all commitments are fulfilled, the Paris Agreement could potentially get us about 1/3 of the way to hitting the 1.5oC target, but the planet would still be likely to warm by 3oC over pre-industrial levels.

Read more here.