U.S. Companies to Trump: Don’t Abandon Global Climate Deal

Source: By HIROKO TABUCHI, New York Times • Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hundreds of American companies, including Mars, Nike, Levi Strauss and Starbucks, have urged President-elect Donald J. Trump not to abandon the Paris climate deal, saying a failure by the United States to build a clean economy endangers American prosperity.

In a plea addressed to Mr. Trump — as well as President Obama and members of Congress — 365 companies and major investors emphasized their “deep commitment to addressing climate change,” and demanded that he leave in place low-emissions policies in the United States.

“Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk,” the companies said in a joint letter announced on Wednesday in Marrakesh, Morocco, where global leaders are determining the next steps for the Paris deal. “But the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness.”

The companies also said that they would push ahead with their own targets to reduce their carbon footprints regardless of steps taken by Mr. Trump once he is in office. During his campaign, Mr. Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, pledged to leave the Paris accord, dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency and undo Mr. Obama’s climate change policies.

“This doesn’t change our commitments,” said Kevin Rabinovitch, global sustainability director at Mars, which has pledged to eliminate 100 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions from its factories and offices by 2040. “We’re doing this because we see a real business risk. We see a real business problem.”

Businesses large and small have scrambled in the days since Mr. Trump’s victory to chart their next moves in an uncertain regulatory situation. Mr. Trump’s campaign pledges and musings have been driven by the belief that the economy will grow faster if businesses are freed from cumbersome federal regulations, especially those that limit carbon emissions.

The president-elect has heightened environmentalists’ fears that his administration will take on an anti-climate, anti-environment bent by appointing the climate contrarian Myron Ebell to lead the E.P.A. transition. Climate change activists have denounced Mr. Ebell, whose Competitive Enterprise Institute has received funding from oil and gas interest groups.

Some corporations, like the country’s largest automakers, have already seized on a potential upside to the president-elect’s leanings, urging a rethinking of stringent federal auto emissions standards. An easing of federal standards for passenger cars, which together with the rest of the transportation sector emit more carbon dioxide than any other part of the American economy, could have immense implications for overall emissions.

Others, like solar and wind power companies, have raced to find common ground with Mr. Trump, pressing for reassurances that his administration will not slash investment in renewable energy or alter federal tax credits on renewable energy projects.

“Mr. Trump talks about infrastructure, he talks about jobs,” said Michael Skelly, founder and president of Clean Line Energy Partners, a company based in Houston that builds transmission lines for renewable energy.

“What we’re creating are welding jobs, steel manufacturing jobs, in Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa,” he said. “These are projects that create income for landowners, create jobs in the middle of the country.”

The stakes are high. Damage from climate change — especially from extreme weather events like hurricanes, flooding and drought — could shave as much as 5 percent off annual global gross domestic product by 2100, according to a studycommissioned by the British government that is considered one of the most comprehensive.

Environmental groups have been left with the daunting prospect that, with a climate skeptic in the White House, they will need to look directly to corporations to assume the mantle of leading the country’s response to climate change. But without strict regulatory standards or oversight, companies will be left freer to pick and choose which climate-friendly policies to pursue, and which they will choose to ignore or abandon.

Still, some American corporations have already made significant efforts to reduce their environmental footprints. So reversing them now would be disruptive not just for the environment, but for their bottom line. And even with a move away from climate-friendly policies back home, American corporations face tightening regulations overseas.

“Now more than ever, Levi Strauss believes it is important to reaffirm our commitment to address climate change by supporting the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Michael Kobori, the company’s vice president for sustainability.

“Building an energy-efficient economy in the U.S. will ensure our nation’s competitiveness,” he said, “and position U.S. companies as leaders in the global market — all while doing the right thing for our planet.”