Monday, December 14, 2015

A Signal to Industry to Go Green in an Era of Carbon Reduction

A coal yard worker in Afghanistan. The climate accord signed in Paris encourages businesses to reduce their reliance on coal. (Credit: Aref Karimi/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
With the ink barely dry on a landmark climate accord, nations now face an even more daunting challenge:  how to get their industries to go along.

If nothing else, analysts and experts say, the accord is a signal to businesses and investors that the era of carbon reduction has arrived.

It will spur banks and investment funds to shift their loan and stock portfolios from coal and oil to the growing industries of renewable energy like wind and solar.  Utilities themselves will have to reduce their reliance on coal and more aggressively adopt renewable sources of energy.  Energy and technology companies will be pushed to make breakthroughs to make better and cheaper batteries that can store energy for use when it is needed.  And automakers will have to develop electric cars that win broader acceptance in the marketplace.

“It’s very hard to go backward from something like this,” said Nancy Pfund, managing partner of DBL Partners, a venture capital firm that focuses on social, environmental and economic development.  “People are boarding this train, and it’s time to hop on if you want to have a thriving, 21st-century economy.”

Wall Street is clearly paying attention.

Top executives from Bank of America, Citibank and Goldman Sachs dropped by the Paris talks or related side events, as did philanthropist business leaders like Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Chief executives of blue-chip companies like Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Mills, HP and Unilever all expressed support for an ambitious deal.

On Twitter on Saturday night, BP, the British oil giant, called the Paris agreement a “landmark climate change deal” and pledged to be “a part of the solution.”  In June, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Total called for a tax on carbon emissions, saying it would reduce uncertainty and help oil and gas companies figure out the future.
By any measure, the world economy has a long way to go to break away from the use of coal and oil that fueled progress since the Industrial Revolution.  Globally, renewable energy sources are growing fast but they still account for about only 10 percent of total energy supply, with most of that coming from hydroelectric power, according to a new report from the research firm Sanford C. Bernstein & Company.  Solar and wind account for 1.6 percent of total energy.

Some energy experts said that without a multinational carbon tax or other pricing of carbon, which was not specified in the agreement, the hopes of environmentalists for a true sea change that will curb climate change remain challenged.

Automakers, under intense pressure to meet strict American fuel economy standards, have hastened the trend toward smaller engines, and have increased investments in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Last week, Ford Motor said it would invest $4.5 billion on 13 new electric vehicle models by 2020 — even though sales of alternative-fuel models are still a fraction of the market.

Read more at A Signal to Industry to Go Green in an Era of Carbon Reduction

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