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Global Companies Take Obama Climate Pledge

  • Aru Pande

The island village of Kivalina, which the White House chose to highlight as a community at risk from rising sea levels, can be seen from Air Force One as U.S. President Barack Obama flies to Kotzebue, Alaska, Sept. 2, 2015.

The island village of Kivalina, which the White House chose to highlight as a community at risk from rising sea levels, can be seen from Air Force One as U.S. President Barack Obama flies to Kotzebue, Alaska, Sept. 2, 2015.

From Coca-Cola to Nike, more global companies are pledging to take steps to reduce emissions and increase clean energy use in order to fight climate change.

The White House announced Monday that 68 additional companies have signed on to the administration’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge, bringing the total to 81 since July when the pledge was launched.

Nike has pledged to reach 100 percent renewable energy in its owned or operated facilities by 2025. Other companies like Sony say they will reduce the annual energy consumption of their products.

Air Force One, carrying President Barack Obama, flies over the island village of Kivalina, an Alaska Native community of 400 people already receding into the ocean as a result of rising sea levels, on its way to Ralph Wien Memorial Airport in Kotzebue, Al

Air Force One, carrying President Barack Obama, flies over the island village of Kivalina, an Alaska Native community of 400 people already receding into the ocean as a result of rising sea levels, on its way to Ralph Wien Memorial Airport in Kotzebue, Al

"The commitments that these companies are making total at least $160 billion," President Barack Obama said. The efforts range "from reducing emissions to reducing water usage to pursuing zero net deforestation to purchasing 100 percent clean energy."

Obama made the remarks during a roundtable Monday with the CEOs of companies that included Johnson and Johnson, candymaker Hershey and tech giant Intel.

President Barack Obama meets with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Oct. 19, 2015.

President Barack Obama meets with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Oct. 19, 2015.

The president's senior climate adviser, Brian Deese, said the firms have made commitments while endorsing a strong outcome during the December United Nations climate conference in Paris.

"These commitments show that international action on climate is not only good for our planet, it’s good for the bottom line," said Deese. "It also shows that when United States leads on climate issues, not only do other countries step up and make more progress, but you see businesses as well as other key actors stepping up to rally the world to address this issue.”

The White House said the 81 companies employed more than 9 million people and represented more than $3 trillion in annual revenue.

At Monday’s roundtable at the White House, Obama noted suppliers and small businesses also were getting involved in the call to address climate change.

“We need to have a partnership between business and the federal government, state government, local government, not-for-profit sector, all to continue to achieve aggressive reductions in our carbon footprint," the president said.

'Serious challenge'

During a press call Monday, Intel's global environmental director, Todd Brady, called climate change a serious environmental and economic challenge that warrants an equally serious response.

The American tech company has pledged to continue 100 percent green power in its U.S. operations and increase renewable energy use for international operations. Intel also said it would increase the installation and use of on-site renewable energy to triple its current levels.

Intel’s Brady praised the administration’s leadership on what he called a complex issue. He said the pledge gave companies the confidence and certainty to move forward with capital investment and growth plans, while taking into account their own plans of action on climate change.

"Increasingly, we are a global economy, so ensuring that there is a level playing field internationally as it relates to climate change is also critical, and an important outcome of any type of international agreement," Brady said.

Preparing for Paris talks

The White House announcement on new business commitments comes as global leaders prepare to forge an agreement in Paris.

Earlier this year, Obama unveiled his Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing carbon emissions from the energy sector by more than a third by 2030.

On Monday, senior adviser Deese said U.S. actions, coupled with pledges from the global business community, have spurred other nations to announce their own goals to cut emissions.

"Now we have 150 countries that represent more than 85 percent of global emissions having now submitted their national plans, which is an unprecedented showing across the global community," Deese said. "That has helped boost momentum as we move into this final stage."

Obama ended his remarks Monday by repeating his call to action.

"Not only is it going to have an impact on our children and our grandchildren – and we have a moral obligation to leave them a planet that is as wonderful as the one that we inherited from our forebears – but it’s really important for America’s bottom line and economic growth that we do something about climate change.”

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