THE THROW DOWN — Business to Biden: If you raise the bar on climate, we will, too.
Big investors and a list of blue-chip corporations asked President Joe Biden to commit to cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade by at least 50 percent from 2005 levels.
Audacious? Maybe. But the fact is that plenty of companies already are well on their way there, with or without Washington. And in a letter to Biden on Tuesday, they made him an offer.
“If you raise the bar on our national ambition, we will raise our own ambition to move the U.S. forward on this journey,” the group wrote. “While an effective national climate strategy will require all of us, you alone can set the course by swiftly establishing a bold U.S. 2030 target.”
“You can count on our support.”
WHO SIGNED — Tech: Adobe, Apple, HP, Dell Technologies, Microsoft, SAP. Utility and energy bigs: PG&E, Exelon, SUEZ. Industrials: Siemens, Saint-Gobain, General Electric, Deutsche Post DHL Group. Food brands: McDonald’s, Mars, Nestle, and Danone North America. Fashion and retail giants: Ralph Lauren, Gap, H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, IKEA, Walmart, YKK. And more: Philip Morris, Sodexo.
“The urgency could not be clearer: climate change poses an existential threat to society and to business,” Levi’s Chief Sustainability Officer Jeffrey Hogue said. “Addressing the climate crisis requires rapid action at an economywide scale.”
Investor groups CDP, Ceres and PRI — founding partners of Investor Agenda, a coalition that advocates for corporate transparency and standards on climate, added their own message.
In all, businesses with more than $3 trillion in revenue and nearly 6 million American workers, and financial firms responsible for more than $1 trillion in pension funds, 401(k)s and other assets, signed the letters.
WHO DIDN’T SIGN: Big Fossil Fuel.
There’s more: Nearly 400 corporate executives in the nonpartisan business group E2 also backed emission cuts of at least 50 percent, which they said would send a market signal to “drive growth, jobs and innovation.”
WHAT’S NEXT — Biden has invited 40 world leaders to a virtual climate summit next week. He wants to commit the U.S. to net-zero emissions by 2050, but has been mum on exactly what the U.S. will take to the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
THE MISSING PIECE — Infrastructure is deeply entwined with global efforts to limit planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and Biden can’t meet any U.S. target without massive investments in green energy, carbon capture, clean transportation and a long list of other things.
That’s one reason reports of the infrastructure bill’s death are greatly exaggerated. Lawmakers are drafting wish lists and the White House on Monday dangled a state-by-state tally of needs that a bill might possibly meet. Lawmakers who met with Biden Monday gave the meeting upbeat reviews.
Earth Day plans? No, not picnics—Biden’s executive orders. Have you seen them? Let us know at [email protected] and [email protected] and on Twitter at @ceboudreau and @Woellert. FOMO? Subscribe to the Long Game.
United Airlines Inc. wants more money for sustainable aviation fuel, and its buddies are ponying up. More than a dozen global corporations will pitch in toward the purchase of some 3.4 million gallons of the jet fuel this year, the company said Tuesday.
United wants your money, too, and has set up a link for customer donations. And if you’re that jazzed about helping a major airline buy green fuel, tell Congress. In an unusual move for a major corporation, United will connect customers directly to lawmakers to endorse federal spending on sustainable jet fuel and tax incentives for carbon capture.
Diversity: The announcement follows news that the airline wants to train 5,000 new pilots by 2030, with half of them women and people of color. Just 7 percent of its current pilots are women and only 13 percent are people of color.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson wasn’t impressed.
“The country has further to go than I appreciated,” United CEO Scott Kirby told reporters.
BOOK ’EM — The willful systematic destruction of the environment — ecocide — could become an international high crime.
The EU Parliament this month could endorse a plan to make ecocide a crime prosecuted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, a venue reserved for the very worst crimes against humanity.
“It’s a paradigm shift,” Marie Toussaint, the French Green member of Parliament behind the effort, told POLITICO’s Kalina Oroschakoff and Louise Guillot.
Parliamentary initiatives to recognize ecocide as an international crime have popped up in Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden. French President Emmanuel Macron has said that heads of government who deliberately fail to protect the environment should be held accountable at the ICC.
Environmental damage has been prosecuted before — think Volkswagen’s Dieselgate or BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill — but such disasters largely are the preserve of national, not international law. Ecocide as a policy concept has been around since at least the Vietnam War and Agent Orange, but attention to climate and biodiversity has given the idea new momentum.
The nonprofit Stop Ecocide campaign has set up an international panel of legal experts to come up with a legal definition of ecocide by June.
Reality check! Any proposal would require a two-thirds majority, which could take years. The ICC can prosecute only individuals, not companies, and its reach is limited: The U.S., China, Russia, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Turkey aren’t members.
TAKE THE TRAIN — France has banned short-haul domestic flights on certain routes that can be traveled by train, part of a broader effort to cut the country’s carbon emissions, Reuters reports.
It’s not just France. Austria’s government has introduced a tax on airline tickets for flights of less than 217 miles and a ban on domestic flights that could be traveled in less than three hours by train. The Netherlands has been trying since 2013 to ban short domestic flights.
WET MARKETS — The World Health Organization wants to stop the trade of live wild mammals in food markets until the risks of zoonotic disease transmission can be figured out.
NY DUMPS TAR SANDS — New York’s retirement fund will sell holdings in seven tar sands companies, part of state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s effort to quit fossil fuel companies and achieve net-zero emission in the portfolio by 2040. The $246 billion fund holds about $7 million in tar sands companies.
Next on the block: Shale oil and gas.
WHAT RECESSION? CEO pay surged in 2020, as the pandemic killed millions of jobs and threw the country into a recession. Median pay for chief executives at more than 300 big U.S. public companies reached $13.7 million, up from $12.8 million, and kept climbing as companies moved performance targets or modified pay structures in response to the pandemic, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.
So far this year, shareholders have given a thumbs down to pay arrangements at a dozen big companies, including Starbucks Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.
VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE IN WALL STREET — A majority of likely voters—60 percent—said the federal government needs to crack down on banks and insurers to prevent a climate-driven financial and economic crisis.
Even more—62 percent—said companies should be required to report climate’s risk to their bottom lines. The majorities held across age and education levels and among both rural and suburban respondents.
Fine print: The poll from liberal group Data for Progress surveyed more than 1,100 voters from March 17-19 and Jan. 6-7. The margin of error is +/-3 percent.
— Greta Thunberg told the BBC she won’t go to Glasgow in November. The U.N. climate summit should be postponed, she said.
— Dilution is not the solution to pollution. California learned that the hard way and is paying a price, CBS reports. Now Japan plans to dump contaminated water into the ocean.
— This 3D house is built from dirt. Fast Company has pictures.