WH: Business buy-in a boost for Paris climate talks

WH: Business buy-in a boost for Paris climate talks
© Getty Images

A pledge by American businesses to focus on climate-friendly practices should help boost the prospects for an international climate conference at the end of the year, the White House said. 

Companies participating in the push the White House announced Monday each proposed a series of climate-based benchmarks that they would use to reduce their impact on global warming. 


Brian DeeseBrian DeeseBiden seeks to save what he can from Build Back Better Momentum builds to prohibit lawmakers from trading stocks Hillicon Valley — Airlines issue warning about 5G service MORE, President Obama’s top climate adviser, said that the companies’ proposals are meant to showcase the private sector's commitment to a United Nations climate conference in Paris this December.

“Our engagement with these companies today is around their commitment to supporting a strong outcome in Paris because of the logic — the economic, business and environmental logic — of having a strong international agreement,” Deese said on a press call Monday. 

A broad international agreement at the conference is a key goal for President Obama’s climate agenda for the remainder of his term, but it’s been a tough sell both internationally and at home. 

A November climate agreement between the U.S. and China was meant to demonstrate the willingness of the world’s two largest carbon emitters to commit to a greenhouse gas reduction plan.

Domestically, Republicans have been skeptical about the legality and the effectiveness of a climate treaty. The White House is looking to rebuff those concerns with the private sector pledges they announced on Monday.   

“This is about demonstrating the American business community’s support for a strong outcome and demonstrating U.S. leadership from the U.S. business community, which will be important,” Deese said. 

Representatives from some of the participating companies plugged the Paris conference on Monday.

“We think Paris is a big deal, we think it’s critical that the business community get behind government and ensure that we really do use Paris as the opportunity to really move the world in the right direction,” said Rob McKnight, the chief sustainability officer at Alcoa, an aluminum manufacturer that pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by 50 percent by 2025

Microsoft, which joined fellow tech giants Apple and Google in signing the pledge, said it would look to purchase 100 percent renewable energy to run its data centers and other facilities. Rob Bernard, the company’s chief environmental strategist, said the Paris conference is a “great opportunity to drive, really, expectations and transformation" for the climate.

“Having certainly on a worldwide level on where multiple countries, not just the United States, stand on the future would be a great thing,” he said.

Thirteen companies — representing $1.3 trillion in revenue and $2.5 trillion in market capitalization — joined the pledge on Monday, according to the White House. Officials said a second round of company commitments will come out this fall, ahead of the Paris talks.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a leading congressional critic of the U.N. climate talks, said the business pact does not prove a potential treaty will be effective.

“While companies’ efforts may be sincere in attempting to lower their respective corporate footprints, the Obama administration is not," Inhofe said in a statement.

The pledge, "like most of the president’s climate agenda, looks good in a press release but does little to fill the gap of President Obama’s unrealistic Paris commitments."

This post was updated at 4:07 p.m.