The urgency to address climate change will carry on, regardless of what the US government does, with investors, companies and world leaders sticking to the path of emissions reduction.
“The decision by the US is disappointing but it won’t derail progress on climate change,” says Fiona Reynolds, managing director of the Principles for Responsible Investment, in reaction to President Trump’s announcement that the US would withdraw from the 195-nation agreement on climate change reached in Paris in 2015.
“In fact, this move could strengthen the resolve of other countries to fulfil their commitments to the Paris Agreement,” Reynolds says. “Most world leaders understand the urgency involved in addressing climate change and want to leave a legacy for future generations. For example, China, which has taken the lead on green finance, has said it will continue its push in this area, regardless of what the US decides to do…We congratulate the other G7 countries that confirmed their recommitment to climate action, all of which would welcome the US back into the fold if and when [it chooses] to re-enter the accord.”
Momentum even in the US
Even in the US itself, momentum continues despite Trump’s announcement, with 83 mayors across the country honouring the Paris Agreement, including the mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, whose city got special mention in Trump’s announcement. (“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said.)
California, New York, Washington and six other states have committed to cutting emissions by 26-28 per cent from 2005 levels, which was the reduction former president Barack Obama proposed under the Paris Agreement.
Paul Simpson, who is chief executive of CDP, which runs the global disclosure system that enables companies, cities, states and regions to measure and manage their environmental impact, says any country that fails to implement the Paris Agreement is increasing risks for itself, which increases the impetus for others to act.
“US cities and states are also at the forefront of the fight against climate change,” Simpson says. “New York and California are targeting 50 per cent renewable electricity generation by 2030, and they have ambitious targets in place to drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Leading cities and states are proving that huge leaps forward are possible, with or without the support of the federal government.”
In the private sector, the investor community is becoming increasingly vocal about climate change, as evidenced by the 282 investors, representing $17 trillion, who recently sent a letter to G7 and G20 leaders urging them to stand by the Paris Agreement, PRI’s Reynolds says. (Global-Investor-Letter-to-G7-G20-Governments)
Investors are also voting with their feet. Last month, ExxonMobil management was instructed by investors with a majority of shares to report on the impact of global measures designed to keep climate change to +2 degrees or less.
“This action shows that regardless of the US position on climate, the momentum around climate change is unstoppable.” Reynolds says.
Simpson adds that there are more than 260 major global corporations – including US giants Dell, Kellogg Company, PepsiCo and Walmart – that have joined the Science Based Targets initiative, committing to cutting their emissions in line with the latest climate science.
“Companies are driving a surge in demand for renewable energy, with Apple, Bank of America, Google and Starbucks among the growing number of influential corporations committed to 100 per cent renewable power through the RE100 initiative,” he says. “All of these key players in the global economy will continue taking action because they understand the economic opportunities on offer and the risks associated with continuing business as usual.
“Last year, 2000 companies disclosing to CDP reported cost savings of $12.4 billion as a result of emissions-reduction projects, while nearly 400 cities identified more than 1000 economic opportunities from climate action. Meanwhile, our data showed that $906 billion in annual corporate turnover is at risk because of deforestation. As the world moves closer to its zero-carbon goal, demand for sustainable investments, products and services from investors, purchasers and citizens will keep growing, further reinforcing the business case for swift and ambitious action.”
About 820 investors, with combined assets of $100 trillion, request information on climate change, water or forests from CDP.