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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.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's carbon emissions-cutting pledge faces tough climb

Image from the Rhodium Group study "Pathways to Paris." Courtesy of the Rhodium Group.

The verdict is in: President Biden's U.S. emissions-cutting pledge isn't a fantasy, but the path to meeting it is very difficult and relies on forces outside of White House control.

Driving the news: The Rhodium Group just released an analysis of policy combinations that could close the gap between the current U.S. trajectory and Biden's vow under the Paris Agreement to cut emissions in half by 2030.

UN report: Effects of climate change even more severe than we thought

A wildfire burns in a forest over the village of Gouves, on the island of Evia, Greece, on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. (Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Global warming is happening so fast that scientists now say we'll cross a crucial temperature threshold as early as 2030 — up to a decade sooner than previously thought — according to a sweeping new UN-sponsored review of climate science published Monday.

The big picture: Atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher in 2019 than at any time in at least 2 million years, and the past 50 years saw the fastest temperature increases in at least 2,000 years, according to the new assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

What the initial UN Climate Summit attendance list reveals

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The UN Climate Summit set to begin Oct. 31 in Glasgow will bring an unprecedented combination of leaders for such an event (even Pope Francis!), and the likely absence of vital players — notably Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

Why it matters: The speeches and backroom meetings at COP26 between leaders on the summit's first two days will set the tone for the rest of the gathering. These will be moments when countries showcase any new pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet the Paris Agreement's targets.