Former Managing Director, BSR
On Friday, the biggest players in technology and some of the largest consumer brands submitted separate friend-of-the-court briefs providing resounding support for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which the Supreme Court placed a hold on in February while the D.C. Circuit Court reviews the legality of the regulations.
The amicus brief from the “Tech Amici” includes Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, and the consumer brands’ brief was led by Adobe, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, IKEA, and Mars Incorporated. These companies are demanding that policymakers move forward to implement the Clean Power Plan, which serves as the centerpiece of the U.S. national climate commitment made in Paris last December.
The message is as clear today as it was in Paris: Business leaders welcome the ambitious climate commitments the United States made as part of the Paris Agreement. Many of these companies have taken action themselves and are pledging to do more. To date, more than 150 companies with US$4.2 trillion in annual revenue have signed the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Fifty-four have committed to using 100 percent renewable energy through the Climate Group’s RE100 campaign. More than 550 companies and investors have made more than 900 commitments to reduce emissions, enhance climate resilience, and advocate for effective climate policies.
By moving quickly and assertively toward implementation of its commitments, including the Clean Power Plan, the United States will capture the growing market opportunity to lead the world to a clean economy. Renewables represent an incredible market opportunity: According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in 2015, developing economies invested US$286 billion in renewables—up 19 percent over 2014. The United States needs legislation like the Clean Power Plan to catalyze growth in this country.
Should the United States waver on its commitment, there is a risk that other countries may use this as an excuse to step back from their own Paris commitments. The state of U.S. climate policy is therefore critical to ongoing success around the globe. In the short term, the successful implementation of the Clean Power Plan is integral to significant global momentum.
The company leaders raising their voices in support of the Clean Power Plan are doing so because they understand that the transition to the clean economy is happening now, and they are seizing the market opportunity presented by the transition to a low-carbon world.
In its brief, the Tech Amici—representing a sector that contributes 7.1 percent of the U.S. GDP, with a collective market capitalization of more than US$1.7 trillion—stated that the group is deeply committed to consuming power in an environmentally responsible way:
This commitment reflects Tech Amici’s belief that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment. It also reflects their firsthand experience that developing and using renewable electricity generation is affordable, reliable, and consistent with sound business practices.
These companies are significant purchasers of electric power in the United States: In 2015, they used more than 10 million megawatt hours of electricity, and they operate more than 50 data centers in 12 states.
The four companies that submitted the consumer brand brief made a similarly compelling argument:
The cost of doing business without a national carbon mitigation strategy subjects [us] to undesirable risks that are being appraised in the investor and insurance communities. As a result, companies are beginning to bear the economic and social disruptions surrounding carbon source uncertainty that would be alleviated by the court upholding the Clean Power Plan.
Robust support for the Clean Power Plan is coming from companies representing a diverse swath of industries: As the plan was being finalized last August, 365 companies and investors signed letters encouraging governors across the country to support the plan. In addition, more than 20 U.S. states—including some that have expressed opposition to the Clean Power Plan—have indicated that they are going to continue with compliance planning. Several are on target to meet their emissions-reductions obligations.
While the current challenge to the Clean Power Plan is a disappointment and may signal a delay, it is not a derailment of climate action. The resounding support coming as the D.C. Circuit Court prepares to hear oral arguments in June confirms what we already know: The clean economy future is undeniable, irresistible, and inevitable. We urge others in the business community to join the chorus of business leaders from the tech and consumer sectors calling for support of the Clean Power Plan.
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