#COP26: Climate change will be solved by companies

Madrid, November 17, 2021.- The private initiative, multinationals, large companies, small and medium-sized companies are the decisive actors to commit to combat climate change. Of course, each of us, governments, solidarity organizations, environmental activists, etc. are also important actors. But the companies that sustain the world economy are the ones that should lead the new culture that takes care of this planet. For this reason, the climate change agreement between the United States and China is so important, and perhaps, historic.

For now, the announcement has been received with caution by the international community. A joint declaration between the United States and China, in which the two superpowers said they would work together on a number of climate-related actions, has taken many by surprise.

Announced Wednesday during the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, the declaration covers a number of issues, from cutting carbon dioxide and methane emissions to tackling illegal deforestation. 

The countries said they will increase their efforts this decade to meet goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Those goals, the declaration reiterated, include holding the increase in global average temperature to “well below” 2 degrees C and to “pursue efforts” to limit it to 1.5 degrees C. “The two sides are intent on seizing this critical moment to engage in expanded individual and combined efforts to accelerate the transition to a global net zero economy,” the declaration said.

It expressed an intention to establish a working group which will “meet regularly to address the climate crisis and advance the multilateral process, focusing on enhancing concrete actions in this decade.” The U.S. and China’s declared plan to work with one another was welcomed broadly.

“The unexpected and welcome joint declaration between the United States and China represents an important commitment between the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases,” Genevieve Maricle, director of U.S. climate policy action at the World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement.

“No less relevant in the context of this agreement, they are also the two largest economies in the world,” Maricle said.

“Between them they have the power to unlock vast financial flows from the public and private sectors that can speed the transition to a low carbon economy.”

Manish Bapna, the CEO and president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said it was “good news that the U.S. and China agreed to accelerate climate action and ambition in this decisive decade.” “The pledge to strengthen cooperation on clean energy, methane, and deforestation from the two largest economies and greenhouse gas emitters is a welcome step forward,” Bapna said.

“But if we are to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we urgently need to see commitments to cooperate translate into bolder climate targets and credible delivery.” Elsewhere, the U.N. Secretary General, António Guterres, said via Twitter that he welcomed the agreement between the U.S. and China. “Tackling the climate crisis requires international collaboration and solidarity, and this is an important step in the right direction,” Guterres said.

In another tweet, Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, said it was good news the U.S. and China had “found common ground on climate.”

“This is a challenge which transcends politics,” he said. “Bilateral cooperation between the two biggest global emitters should boost negotiations at #COP26. Now we must find the global deal that keeps 1.5 degrees alive.”

The references to 1.5 degrees are a nod to the Paris Agreement, which looms large over discussions taking place at Glasgow.

Described by the United Nations as a legally-binding international treaty on climate change, the Paris Agreement aims to “limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.”

The task is huge, and the United Nations has noted that 1.5 degrees Celsius is considered to be “the upper limit” when it comes to avoiding the worst consequences from climate change.

Others reacting to the declaration included Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International. Morgan said it was “always welcome news when the world’s two biggest emitters cooperate on climate change, and a reset of their relationship on this crucial issue is overdue.”

Apple: Carbon Neutral by 2030

I have already commented that initiatives against climate change in the corporate world will be one of the most effective solutions. I highlight here the example of Apple.

Apple has announced that it’s “more than doubled” the number of suppliers committed to using clean energy and unveiled new measures toward its goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. It’s unveiling the initiatives ahead of COP26, the upcoming UN conference that many observers feel will not produce the breakthroughs needed to achieve aims set at the Paris climate accord.

As part of its 2020 environmental progress report, Apple said that its products and supply chain would be carbon neutral by 2030. That includes not just Apple itself, but 175 supplies that also need to transition to renewable energy, it wrote today. When that happens, “the company and its suppliers will bring online more than 9 gigawatts of clean power around the world,” avoiding over 18 million metric tons of CO2e annually, Apple wrote. 

In total, 175 Apple suppliers will transition to using renewable energy, and the company and its suppliers will bring online more than 9 gigawatts of clean power around the world. These actions will avoid over 18 million metric tons of CO2e annually — the equivalent of taking over 4 million cars off the road each year.

Apple noted that 19 suppliers in Europe are now part of its Clean Energy Program, including Solvay and STMicroelectronics. It has 50 more in China, along with 31 in Japan and South Korea, including SK Hynix, “one of the first Korean suppliers to participate.” Its also creating “new pathways” for recycled materials, including recycled sources of gold, cobalt, aluminum and rare earth elements. 

Apple also added 10 new projects for its “Power for Impact” initiative designed to bring clean energy solutions to communities around the world, particularly in under-resourced communities. That includes a project with six Sioux tribes in the US to finance, develop, build and operating power generation facilities, along with renewable energy projects in South Africa, the Philippines, Columbia, Israel and elsewhere.

While Apple appears to be making good on its promise to deliver products built with 100 percent clean energy, it continues to take heat over e-waste and related right to repair issues. Many of its products are difficult and expensive to repair, meaning that they either end up as e-waste or recycled toward new products. Both of those things use energy, clean or otherwise, that wouldn’t be consumed if the product was simply fixed.

Recently, President Biden ordered the FTC to draft right to repair legislation, and Europe announced that it would take measures forcing phone manufacturers to use USB-C — both rules that seem to primarily target Apple. 

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