Sep 20, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The breadth and limits of corporate carbon moves

An illustration of a suitcase with plants coming out of it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

This week will showcase how more big companies are taking steps to cut emissions — and why corporate pledges only go so far.

The big picture: It's Climate Week. That's the annual New York City event that brings together businesses, governments and activists for speeches, symposiums and pledges. The event typically serves as a venue for corporations to announce their latest efforts, and that's already starting.

Driving the news: This morning Amazon said that 86 more companies have adopted the "Climate Pledge" it launched in 2019 under which corporations commit to net-zero emissions by 2040.

  • New signatories include Procter & Gamble, HP, Salesforce and Nespresso, and the coalition now counts over 200 members, including existing members like Unilever, Siemens, JetBlue, Coca-Cola and more.
  • The pledges from all signatories combined would cut emissions nearly 2 billion metric tons relative to a 2020 baseline, or over 5% of current annual global emissions, Amazon said.

Why it matters: That's a lot of avoided emissions! But nonbinding pledges are hardly a guarantee that steep cuts will happen.

  • That's true even though plenty of large companies are already taking tangible steps — for instance, corporate renewables procurement has been surging for years.
  • And even if carried out, there's little doubt that global emissions cuts in line with the Paris climate agreement won't happen without a level of government policy implementation worldwide that's nowhere to be found yet.
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