To a greater extent than ever before, the best interest of many businesses and those of the planet are aligned. That’s how The Washington Post’s Steven Mufson put it in a story that ran just after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s October 8 report warning that the world is headed toward an increase of 3 degrees Celsius instead of the 1.5 degrees ceiling that the Paris Agreement calls for.
“We need to future-proof ourselves,” said Feike Sijbesma, chief executive of the Dutch multinational Royal DSM. “Some of my investors and banks asked me what do you want to do: Improve the world or make money? I said, ‘Well, both.’ ”
“A lot of investors want to understand the implications of a low-carbon economy,” said Bob Litterman, a member of our Advisory Board who is a nationally recognized authority on risk management. “Quantifying that is difficult. And they’re worried that a major climate transition could take place much faster than expected.” During a 23-year career at Goldman Sachs, he helped create the Black-Litterman Global Asset Allocation Model.
“If you look at this problem from a risk-management point of view, you look at that worst-case scenario,” Litterman said. “And the worst-case scenario is really, really bad.”
A number of major corporations are taking action.
Walmart has installed more than 1.5 million energy-efficient LED light fixtures across more than 6,000 stores, parking lots, distribution centers and corporate offices in 10 countries, driving down lighting costs by hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade, the company said. Walmart also said it had exceeded its goal to double the efficiency of its trucking fleet by 2015, thereby saving nearly $1 billion.
Costco has installed solar systems on top of at least 100 of its warehouse stores, and some locations use solar power in parking lots.
UPS is shifting toward electric vehicles and plans to operate a quarter of its vehicles with alternative fuel by 2020.
Europe’s largest bank, HSBC, will no longer fund new coal-fired power plants, oil-sands development or Arctic drilling.
New Jersey-based PSEG, one of the nation’s largest utilities, recently unveiled a six-year, $4.1 billion climate plan, with two-thirds of the money aimed at boosting energy efficiency. An additional $300 million will go toward 40,000 new charging stations for electric vehicles. “We need to step up our game,” said Ralph Izzo, the utility’s CEO.
“We’ve gone from saying ‘it would be nice to do, but it would cost us’ to saying ‘if we don’t do it, we won’t be able to grow, we won’t be able to have tomorrow’s economy,’ ” Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, told Mufson.“It’s wonderful what [companies] are doing,” he said. “But we also need governments. They are two blades of a pair of scissors, so to speak.”
We believe that the most effective step our government could take is to price carbon, and we are urging business leaders to make that case to Congress. Will the Congress that convenes in January take action? We will be encouraging lawmakers to do so.