When President Trump announced his plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2017, businesses spoke out en masse in opposition to this plan – conveying that long-term, global competitiveness demands climate action. Soon after, the We Are Still In Coalition was born to showcase widespread commitment to the Paris Accord.
This week, as the Trump administration cedes global leadership on climate by formally withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, We Are Still In membership now stands at more than 2,200 businesses and investors – including big names like Walmart, Hewlett Packard, Dropbox, and Apple.
Continued commitment to the Paris Accord is critical – but it’s also only one part of what is needed to fill the climate leadership void, build the clean energy economy, and remain “in.”
We use tech in just about every aspect of our lives. It’s changed how we communicate, shop, travel, to how we get the food on our plate. It’s also changed how companies do business.
Technology like artificial intelligence (AI), sensors and blockchain are enabling companies to provide cutting-edge products and services for consumers – from virtual gyms to smart water dispensers – and increase operational efficiency as they do. But the bulk of companies are missing out on a big opportunity: using tech that’s already at hand to meet their sustainability goals and reduce climate-related risk.
Fueled by a surge in employee, customer and investor pressure to act on climate, and the near universal recognition of how a warming planet threatens the global economy, businesses are stepping up their climate commitments in a big way. This was especially true in September, when hundreds of companies announced their intentions at Climate Week, and in August when the Business Roundtable unveiled its new take on the purpose of a corporation: to “serve all its stakeholders” and “protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.”
For too long, air pollution has been an invisible problem. That is until now. New technologies are exposing the presence of air pollution and connecting it back to sources and health impacts.
For the most part, cities across the globe have led the efforts to deploy innovative solutions for tackling air pollution and climate together. But they can’t do it alone. Companies can invest in solutions that address air pollution, protect the climate, and add value to their business.
Business leaders are being called on to align climate and clean air plans. And just as we saw momentum build from the business community to set serious, science-based targets to tackle climate change, the same ambition needs to happen for measuring and monitoring air pollution. Fortunately, new innovations and technological breakthroughs are enabling companies to work with cities on scaling solutions.
This week, a new investigative report by Healthy Babies Bright Futures, a children’s health advocacy group, revealed that there is still more work to do in eliminating contaminants of concern, including lead, arsenic, and cadmium, from infant and toddler food. As noted in the report, at least one of these toxic heavy metals was detected in 95 percent of the 168 baby food samples tested. The good news: earlier this year, leaders in the sector supported by academic, government, and NGO partners and advisors started working together on the issue via the pre-competitive Baby Food Council.
There’s no doubt that consumers are looking for safer, cleaner and more environmentally-friendly products. However, demonstrating leadership among the competition can be tricky, particularly because terms like “clean” are unregulated and lack a standard definition. One way to lead on consumer trust and gain a competitive advantage? Champion meaningful transparency – this means sharing greater ingredient information as well as how these ingredients and products are assessed. Credo Beauty, the largest clean beauty retailer in the country, is doing just that – last week they launched their leading-edge Fragrance Transparency Policy.
Virtually eliminating methane emissions is a critical complement to CO2 reductions and essential to bending the curve of greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector by 2030. Environmental Defense Fund and BP are pursuing a three-year collaboration to advance technologies and practices to reduce methane emissions from the global oil and gas supply chain. I recently had the chance to sit down with Brian Pugh, Chief Innovation Officer BPX, to discuss technology innovation, the role of methane regulations, and creating a data-driven culture.
Q: Why is reaching near zero methane emissions an important issue for BP and its U.S. onshore upstream company BPX Energy?
A: Minimizing methane emissions is the right thing to do – for the environment and our business.
Backlash continues to grow against the Trump administration’s efforts to deregulate methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The coalition opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s rollbacks now includes major oil and gas companies¹, a midstream gas transmission operator, investors representing over $5.5 trillion in assets under management and 12 of the nation’s largest utilities.²
These utilities, who use natural gas produced by oil and gas companies for electricity generation and delivery to commercial and residential consumers, have expressed strong opposition to the proposed regulations, recognizing national standards as the “foundation” of industry efforts to reduce methane emissions.
The public comment period, which began on Sept. 24, offers downstream energy providers a key opportunity to publicly add their voice to the broad set of stakeholders supporting federal regulation of methane in the oil and gas sector.
It’s true that in many cities, air quality is better now than it was decades ago. But urban air quality is still a health risk in far too many places. Premature death from air pollution is about 50 percent more common in cities than in rural areas. On days with higher air pollution, stock returns are lower, and students perform worse on exams. Companies in highly polluted cities have to offer a form of “hazard pay.” And with about 1.5 million people relocating to urban centers every week, air quality will remain a persistent and urgent problem for city leaders around the world.
EDF has been working for over three years to demonstrate how hyperlocal air quality monitoring can help local officials better identify and address dirty air. This week, at the 2019 C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen, we released a guide that captures our experiences from groundbreaking monitoring pilots, and the lessons we learned along the way: Making the Invisible Visible: A guide for mapping hyperlocal air pollution to drive clean air action.
At the behest of the American Petroleum Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to eliminate nationwide limits on methane pollution, sending America’s natural gas industry backwards to the days of uncontrolled emissions. This dangerous proposal threatens the climate, the communities living near oil and gas development and the increasingly vulnerable status of American natural gas in a transition to a net-zero carbon emission economy.
Any business depends on four fundamentals to operate successfully: demand from customers, acceptance from society at large, financial capital to invest and talent to do the work. America’s natural gas industry is no different.
Eliminating methane standards would increase risk to each part of this foundation, making this proposed rollback a prime opportunity for risk-conscious executives and investors to speak out this fall. Read more