US companies are leading climate action because it drives innovation and creates business opportunities: Sam Kimmins

Reading time: 3 minutes
5 June 2017

Following the Trump administration’s announcement that the US will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, some of the world’s biggest businesses have reaffirmed their commitment to climate action. Global giants including Apple, Google and Microsoft are clear that the administration’s suggestion that the agreement will restrict jobs and competitiveness is counter to the indisputable business case for investing in clean energy.

In this blog, Sam Kimmins, Head of RE100, The Climate Group, explores the future of corporate sourcing of renewable power.

The interesting thing about Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement will be its lack of real impact on businesses in the US and globally. Let’s be clear, significant action on climate change is happening around the world, it’s gaining momentum, and it’s increasingly driven by the market.  

Unsubsidized renewable energy has become the cheapest energy source in many parts of the world. The cost of solar power fell 85% in the last seven years. Offshore wind costs fell 28% in just one year. In the US, the renewable energy sector employed around 777,000 people in 2016 – with the solar industry adding workers almost 17 times as fast as the overall economy. The irrepressible growth of the electric vehicles market will make fuel efficiency standards irrelevant within a few short years.

The clean revolution

In any revolution, there are winners and losers and the clean energy revolution is no different. Donald Trump’s announcement will have two outcomes – firstly, it will enable China, India and Europe to take the lead in the new clean energy economy. Secondly, those who don't embrace this opportunity will be left behind.

Pumping billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money into propping up sunset-industries will not change these economic facts – it will just make it more likely that the wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars that flood into America’s markets are produced in the countries that see the advantages of being leaders.

What is there NOT to like about a global agreement that drives innovation, creates business opportunities, and accelerates progress?  

Pioneering companies

The 96 pioneering member companies of RE100 agree. Now representing around 128 terawatt hours/year demand for renewable electricity (that’s around the amount of electricity needed to power Argentina), our members have committed to sourcing 100% of their electricity from renewables. Why? This isn’t a corporate social responsibility exercise – the Chief Finance Officers of global giants such as General Motors, Microsoft, and Dalmia Cement don’t sign off multi-billion dollar investments unless they make clear business sense.

RE100 is a group of smart businesses who see the opportunity that climate action presents – to secure reliable, low cost energy to drive their businesses forward. Being bold with a 100% target leaves no room for doubt for their employees, shareholders and customers – success lies in bold, ambitious leadership.

Our numbers are growing rapidly. Last week, Telefónica joined RE100 to accelerate its progress on renewable electricity, now targeting 100% by 2030. Enrique Blanco, Telefónica’s Global Chief Technology Officer, is clear the company’s rationale is about doing better business, saying “our Renewable Energy Plan helps us to improve our competitiveness, reduce our operational costs and to make growth compatible with a sustainable strategy.”

We’ll be welcoming more global businesses over the coming weeks and months and look forward to working alongside the sub-national governments and business leaders in the US who are continuing to drive forward and surf this unstoppable wave.   

As the world’s leading cities, states, businesses and countries advance together towards the Paris targets, we may occasionally look back in our wake, and wonder if those who dropped out the race regret their decision.

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