Changing corporate consensus on climate?
Earlier this week, a long list of some of the world's largest investors urged government action on climate and I used the occasion to point out that Republicans, once the US' premier party of business, ignore at their peril a growing climate action preference by world-class institutional investors and their service agents. In this post, you'll see that a sizeable chunk of the means of production is weighing in, with a similar objective.
Environmental Leader reports that "Shell, Unilever, Alcoa, Proctor & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson today joined 180 other companies in calling on governments to take action to keep the global rise in temperatures below two degrees Celsius."
This proclamation is by the Corporate Leaders Network for Climate Action, organized under the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, and it's called "The 2°C Challenge Communiqué." See some excerpts below, followed by brief discussion of corporate signatories.
As business leaders, we are committed to action on climate change, sustainable development and the green economy. Green growth offers the potential to create a more prosperous and resilient economy, and deliver innovation, new industries and jobs. We continue to broaden understanding amongst our peers of the economic case for green growth and the urgency of meeting the 2°C challenge.
The scientific and economic evidence remains clear. If we do not act, climate change risks seriously undermining future global prosperity and inflicting significant social, economic and environmental costs on the world. If we take the right steps, we can secure a low carbon‐emission economy that is more resilient, more efficient and less vulnerable to global shocks. But time is short for effective action to address the threat of climate change. The window to stabilise global warming to less than 2°C, as agreed in Cancún, has almost closed. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has shown that CO2 emissions in 2010 were the highest on record, and are still rising. While there are examples of strong policies and actions to prevent dangerous climate change, with current progress we will cross the 2°C boundary.
We maintain our support for a robust, equitable and effective UN agreement on climate change, built on the existing foundations. Without this agreement, business lacks the clarity and certainty needed to invest to its fullest potential. Failure by governments to end the deadlock in international negotiations will risk permanent damage to their credibility on this issue. But we cannot, and should not, wait for a new international treaty to be in place. All governments must adopt the national policies and measures that drive action, without delay. Such policies need to be ambitious, transparent, measurable, and compatible with a future global framework.
Call to action
We call upon governments to undertake a variety of actions, recognizing their responsibility for climate change and respective capabilities to respond, including: ...
See the remainder of the communique here [PDF].
The list of signatory North America based corporations includes: Alcoa, Applied Materials, Canada Lithium Corporation, eBay, Johnson & Johnson, P&G. There were a few other North American firms listed, mostly service businesses and non-profits, but these 6 are the big players. This brave handful of North American corporations deserve our applause for having the guts to confront suicidal US political instincts. (I bet it wasn't easy to get the CEOs and Investor Relations VPs to agree with the signing on.)
In Europe and Russia, the signatory field is far broader -- hundreds of them did so -- which you can see listed here.
The Euro-centric corporate list queues up the obvious question: Is it merely greed or is it also ignorance which has US corporations still holding back from scientific reality?
This is not trivial question.
We have to understand cause before looking for a cure. Some of the blame might be attributed to the lack of a decent science and technology background among the thousands of MBAs and lawyers that fill up most of the top slots in US corporations and who also control most of their boards. Bean counters and lawyers in other words. Occupy Wall Street may only be tackling half the problem.