On the cusp of the ratification of the Paris Agreement and with the U.S. Presidential election just seven weeks away, there were bold statements on climate action made in New York City yesterday as the 2016 Climate Week NYC (#CWNYC) kicked-off .

Global FTSE 500 corporates showed their support for U.S. leadership on climate action by committing to renewables to help accelerate the transition to a net zero economy at the event ‘America Means Business: U.S. Leadership in a post-Paris World’ held in New York City, convened by The Climate Group. They included Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and others.

Bank of America announced on stage that it would be joining RE100, a global initiative of influential businesses committed to 100 percent renewable electricity led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP.

In addition to its new commitment to power its operations with 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020, the Bank of America also announced plans to go carbon neutral and set new environmental operations goals for water, paper, waste and LEED certification. For the first time – in an extension of responsibility on climate – Bank of America announced quantitative goals to address emissions in its supply chain as well as reducing emissions in its own operations.

“These new commitments build on our existing environmental strategy for both our operations as well as our business activities.  This includes our $125 billion environmental business initiative, which is providing much-needed capital to catalyze greater investments in clean energy and other low-carbon projects. Overall, we have provided more than $53 billion dollars to sustainable business activities since 2007,” said Andrew Plepler, Global Environmental, Social and Governance executive at Bank of America.

“We’re joining RE100 to help keep these critical issues at the forefront of the business agenda, recognizing the role of the private sector in addressing challenges associated with climate change. Together we can accelerate the transition to a more sustainable and low carbon economy,” he added.

In announcing that it would join the RE100 campaign, Apple also announced the completion of a new 50-megawatt solar project in Arizona and new renewable energy commitments from its manufacturing partners.

"Apple is committed to running on 100 percent renewable energy, and we’re happy to stand beside other companies that are working toward the same effort,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President for Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives during her opening ceremony keynote.

“We’re excited to share the industry-leading work we've been doing to drive renewable energy into the manufacturing supply chain, and look forward to partnering with RE100 to advocate for clean-energy policies around the world,” she added.

Leading voices from Europe also pledged bold action on climate. Headquartered in the Netherlands, Philips Lighting, a private company, has joined The Climate Group and World Green Business Council in calling for all new buildings to adopt energy efficient LED lighting by 2020 and for all existing buildings to use LED by 2030.

“Our planet is warming at a pace unprecedented in the past millennium. Last August was the hottest on record. So we must act now and collectively, arriving at firm actions that make real the agreements inked in Paris last year,” said Eric Rondolat, CEO of Philips Lighting.

Bambeco, the unlisted sustainable home goods store, also demonstrated leadership in implementing a low carbon business and supply chain. Susan Aplin, its CEO, announced Bambeco will be carbon neutral by 2020, making it the first net-neutral home goods company.

The sectors in which businesses pledge carbon neutrality have continued to expand - in 2015, Siemens (OTCMKTS:SIEGY) became the world’s first major industrial company to commit to achieving a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030.

Roland Busch, Managing Board Member and Chief Sustainability Officer at Siemens told the audience at Climate Week NYC: “Decarbonization is both an ecologic necessity and an economic opportunity. The energy sector, industrial processes and urban infrastructures offer huge potential for boosting efficiency while increasing productivity. Implementing the right technologies is the key.”

“We now stand on the verge of a new era of bold climate action, clean energy and prosperous sustainable economies, but with limited time to seize this opportunity. Yet as we’ve seen, forward thinking businesses aren’t going to let this investment opportunity pass them by, and those that do, will be left behind,” said Amy Davidsen, Executive Director of North America at The Climate Group, at the event.

NOTE: To mark the start of Climate Week NYC 2016, as a physical reflection of efforts to move towards net-zero emissions, New York’s iconic Empire State Building has been lit up green from sunset yesterday until 2am today.

Dina Medland is an independent writer, editor and commentator with a strong focus on issues around corporate governance, ethics, the workings of the boardroom and sustainable business. She is on the team of contributors to @ForbesEurope and is an ex-Financial Times staff member who has been a regular contributor in recent years. Further details about her background and a portfolio of work – including her commercially sponsored blog ‘Board Talk’ are available on her website http://www.dinamedland.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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