Environmental Groups Call for 'Strong Corporate Governance' to Address Climate Change

Eleven environmental and business organizations called on Tuesday for companies to display "strong corporate governance" and act more boldly to address climate change.

The signatories, which included the Union of Concerned Scientists, the World Resources Institute and the Environmental Defense Fund, urged business leaders to align their corporate policies with recommendations laid out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

"Given their power to shape public policy, businesses have a vital role to play in moving smart and effective climate policies forward," the letter, which was also published as an advertisement in the New York Times business section on Tuesday, said.

The text calls for businesses to advocate for climate policies that allow net-zero emissions by 2050 and ensure that the policy advocated by their trade associations aligns with net-zero emissions.

While powerful business organizations, like the US Chamber of Commerce, have served as an impediment to climate action, the Environmental Defense Fund president urged the private sector to use their lobbying power to accelerate government climate action.

"CEOs need to reduce climate pollution within their own company operations, and they also need to unleash the most powerful tool they have to fight climate change: their political influence. Corporate voices matter to Congress, but the vast majority of businesses have been silent on the need for climate policy, or even opposed to it," Fred Krupp, the president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said in the press release about the letter.

Amid global protests last month, in which an estimated 4 million people around the world flooded onto streets to urge faster action for climate change, scores of businesses have announced decarbonization efforts. Twelve major asset owners with more than $2.4 trillion said their portfolios would have net-zero emissions by 2050. Prominent businesses like Amazon and Unilever have announced new efforts to decarbonize, and the scientists are looking at the private sector as a force that can catalyze governments to address climate change.

Collaborations to encourage sustainable commitments and catalyze corporate climate action have also been formed. The Science Based Targets initiative, an effort backed by the United Nations Global Compact, seeks to have companies commit to climate goals. The Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, an effort including Nestle, Danone and Mars, is pushing for changes to food production. Climate Action 100+ is also pushing for the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases to address climate change.

Scientists have long raised the necessity of switching to renewable energy sources to ensure to slow the rapid escalation in global temperatures. But the argument for switching to renewables also has an economic component. The declining costs of renewable energy mean that alternative sources are competitive with traditional fuels. And, by 2030, wind and solar energy prices will be below those of "commissioned coal and gas almost everywhere," according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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An Extinction Rebellion protester holds up a placard saying outside the Bank of England in London on October 14. John Keeble/Getty Images