Can Corporations Keep Climate Commitments?

August 11, 2021

LA Times:

The list of companies pledging net-zero emissions by 2050 includes European oil majors BP and Shell, American Airlines, cement maker Cemex and food giant Nestle. A similar pledge is reportedly under consideration at Exxon Mobil, the Texas-based oil heavyweight that has known since the 1970s about its role in global warming but for decades denied the scientific consensus.

Experts say those kinds of pledges are potentially helpful but wildly insufficient. And many environmentalists have slammed them as little more than a marketing tool for companies trying to show off their environmental bona fides.

Carmakers including Ford and Nissan have trumpeted plans to hit net zero by 2050, with General Motors and Volvo aiming for 2040. Under heavy pressure from regulators in the Biden administration and globally, the auto industry has committed to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in electric vehicles and other clean technologies, including hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

But those commitments could change if consumers don’t step up — or if the companies have a change of heart. 

While America’s three largest automakers stood with President Biden last week and set a goal of half of new car sales being zero-emission by 2030 — roughly in line with what scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst of global warming — that goal isn’t backed up by a government mandate. The industry already backtracked once before on a climate deal with President Obama.

John Loehr, managing director at consulting firm AlixPartners, said what happens next is largely up to drivers.

“Whether we hit these targets depends on consumer demand, on what the consumer wants to buy,” he said.

Companies in the tech and retail industries have led the pack. Microsoft says it intends to go not only carbon-neutral but carbon-negative by 2030, meaning it would remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits — a pledge that depends on a massive scaling-up of carbon capture technologies. Apple vowed that its entire supply chain will be carbon-neutral by 2030. 

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, pledged in 2020 that it would eliminate emissions from its own operations by 2040, and since 2017 has been working to help its vast network of suppliers cut carbon. Amazon pledged two years ago to zero out its carbon pollution by 2040, in response to a massive employee walkout that called for the company to reach that goal by 2030. 

But those types of goals don’t always result in the near-term progress that scientists say is badly needed. Amazon, for instance, dramatically increased its emissions in 2020 as demand surged during the pandemic, using 69% more fossil fuels for its own delivery networks and measuring nearly 30% emission increases for new equipment and third-party transportation.

17 Responses to “Can Corporations Keep Climate Commitments?”


  1. Microsoft is not going to do any of this. they’re just engaging in virtue signaling PR. When the politicians and public finally wise up and ditch all this RE crap for nuclear, the only thing the public will likely remember is Bill Gates’ Natrium molten salt reactor.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      we’ll be waiting on the Natrium reactor for a while, I would think at least a decade before we get a read on if it performs economically.
      Meanwhile, we have solar and wind, and they work, so hoping that we continue to accelerate rollout of those

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        I’m reminded of the ancient joke “X is the technology of the future, and it always will be.”

        Circa 1980 X was gallium-arsenide for semiconductors.
        I’ve also heard it for fusion energy.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      After 75 years of relentless PR blitz and about 100 times more subsidies than clean safe renewable energy has gotten, deadly radiation mostly powers 4 countries’ grids.

      3 of them—Ukraine, Hungary, and Slovakia—are barely over 50%. France is the only exception at 72%, and its nuclear program is a shambles, wrecked by long delays, cost overruns, incompetence, and corruption, just like every other major nuke program in the world. France is reconsidering and reducing its nuke commitment, as have Belgium, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and other countries.

      In reality the US has, too, as its planned and supposedly under construction nuke/s are bogged down in loooooooong delays and huuuuuge cost overruns, cancelations and bankruptcies. More US nukes have been shut in recent years and are scheduled to (8) than have or will open (1). Oops.

      While a deal has been made to go ahead with construction of the one left, provided there aren’t any more overruns or delays, cancelation is also being considered. In the end, it’s probably what will happen. Without massive corruption nukes are simply untenable in a world of 2¢ solar and wind energy.

      Almost everywhere the price of those plus battery storage is already cheaper than existing nukes and fossil fuels, making dispatchable renewables the cheapest energy source of all (except wiser lives and efficiency.) And their prices are still falling. The only places nukes are still being built is where governments decide without people–China, for example, S. Korea. And China already has more wind power than nuke and the gap is growing, while most months now in the US, renewables make up 90-100% of the new energy capacity installed.

      
At least 66 countries get most of their electricity from renewables now: 23 at or near 100%; 27 more over 72%—i.e., more RE than France has nuke E—with dozens more closing in on that. The more clean safe renewable energy gets built, the faster its prices come down and the easier it gets to avoid catastrophe. The more nukes corporations try to build, the slower progress will be and the more likely catastrophe is.

      In the world, this argument is over. Efficiency and renewables won. The only question is whether we do enough of the right work in time. Nukes are so expensive, so likely to fail or not be finished, and inevitably cost more than we can afford—a trillion dollars so far just for the biggest 2 disasters, with far more to come—that they’re a hindrance to eliminating fossil fuels. The longer people and corporations continue to lie about energy hoping to make everyone desperate enough to allow the terrible idea of nukes to spread, the harder it will be to build enough renewable energy for civilization to survive. We have very little time.

      • J4Zonian Says:

        “In the years following World War II, the United States was the foremost nuclear power in the world. In an effort to catch up, the Soviet Union quickly built nuclear power plants and cut corners in order to keep pace.

        The Mayak plant near the city of Kyshtym had a tank with a substandard cooling system as a result, and when it failed [in 1957], the increasing temperature caused an explosion that contaminated almost 500 miles of the surrounding area.”
        en.wikipedia[DOT]org/wiki/Mayak
        cnbc[DOT]com/2011/03/16/11-Nuclear-Meltdowns-and-Disasters.html
        Kept secret by the Soviet government until 10,000 people had to be evacuated. 200 died, and an exclusion zone should have been created and should still exist. Wasn’t, and doesn’t.

        So to the following figures, I’m adding a 500 sq. mi. exclusion-zone-that-isn’t as a a tiny stand-in for all the other land taken up and contaminated by nuclear facilities. That includes still-standing hemidemisemidecommissioned reactors, parts, and the enormous amounts of land dedicated to mining, processing, storing and using radioactive material for the inextricably interwoven nuclear reactor and weapons programs, the land they’ve leaked on and the land killed by industrial agriculture because fisheries have been degraded by radioactivity. The land area figures here are really an infinitesimal fraction of the land that’s been wrecked to supply less than 5% of the world’s energy after 75 years of hopes and money. RE supplies more than that on the books, and even more through clothesline paradox energy.
        Stay tuned for further research.

        The exclusion zones (XZ) made necessary by nuclear “accidents” [1] at Chernobyl and Fukushima, and one-that-should-be at Kyshtym (XZTSB) equal 3100 square miles.

        Just a tiny sample of land wrecked or taken up by nukes: (& dates of accidents)
        Fuku (2011)…1000 sq. mi.,10 years ago…Construction started 1967
        Chern (1986)…1600 sq. mi., 35 years ago…Construction started 1972
        Kysh (1957)…(500) sq. mi., 64 years ago…“Founded” [?] 1948
        Total……………3100 sq. mi.

        A square mile of solar panels produces 425 TWh/yr. on average. [2]

        There weren’t effective solar panels when the 3 facilities were built so I’m counting them as solar farms only since 1985, when solar cells reached 20% efficiency. Using only that technology, just these 3 exclusion zones would have produced 2,520,076,000 TWh per year, or 2.5 Zettawatt hours. That’s 2 named units higher than I’ve ever had occasion to use, even when dealing with the energy production of all of humanity. Had to look it up.
        (1 Terawatt x 1000 = 1 Petawatt…x 1000 = 1 Exawatt…x 1000 = 1 Zettawatt)

        UK: 1,700 TWh/yr
        US: 3,800 TWh, 2020
        Total world energy use (not just electricity), 2016 = 113,009 TWh

        That 2.5 Zettawatts per year is 22,299 times more energy than the world used in 2016.

        Operating as solar farms since 1985, these 3 areas would have produced 900,722,764,800 TWh. of electricity. Rounding off and discarding the .7 Zettawatts (which alone is more than 6000 times the energy the world uses per year) that’s 900 Zettawatts, or almost 1 Yottawatt of electricity. (Yottawatt. Really. Looked it up. A Yottawatt.)

        So I don’t even need to mention that “Hinkley Point, on the Somerset coast, is the biggest building site in Europe. Here, on 430 acres of muddy fields…” a giant, pre-obsoleted boondoggle for the French, the Chinese, and the British military, set aside with 7 other such areas in 2010, is slowly building toward being shut down before it ever opens. (Unless corruption wins and the unelected rulers do as they have been—continue to ignore the emergency.)

        430 acres = .67 square miles x 425 TWh/mi2/yr. = 284.75 TWh/yr
        x 8 = 2278 TWh/yr

        Construction started in 2018; no one knows when it will be finished if ever. Hinkley was?is expected to produce 6.8% of the UK’s electricity, or 115.6 TWh/yr, at a contracted price much higher than solar + wind + batteries are already providing, while those prices continue to drop. So the one site would produce 2½ times more electricity covered with solar panels than it would with a reactor and its necessary armed guards on it [3]
        Unless it’s never built, then solar would provide infinitely more electricity.

        Hinkley Point: the ‘dreadful deal’ behind the world’s most expensive power plant
        Building Britain’s first new nuclear reactor since 1995 will cost twice as much as the 2012 Olympics – and by the time it is finished, nuclear power could be a thing of the past. How could the government strike such a bad deal?
        https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/21/hinkley-point-c-dreadful-deal-behind-worlds-most-expensive-power-plant

        Let me guess: bribery? corruption? imperialism? Finally, we track the all-of-the-above strategy down to its roots.
        ________________________________

        The ARF trolls will no doubt want to bring up common lies about payback and net energy, so let’s:

        The world’s first modern solar panel is still producing electricity at the ripe age of 60! But 30-40 years is more typical so far, with an average degradation rate of between .3 and .8% a year. That means that after 25 years a solar panel is very likely to be producing about 87.5% of its original output. Meanwhile, that 1995 panel will have paid back in 6 months the energy and carbon it took to produce it. And because of improving manufacturing efficiency, supply chains, etc. that’s even faster now; but even at the old rate it means every panel was producing virtually free, carbon-free energy for the remaining 98.6% of its ~eh…35 year lifetime. Payback of other pollution is similar, though trolls will cherry pick figures from residential rooftop solar where every installation is a small custom job and therefore more costly in most ways (except without transmission construction costs). Still a tremendous advantage over fossils; payback of rooftop systems averages 3½ years, and carbon payback on solar installations is over and done while CONG facilities are still in the planning, protest, and bribery stage.)

        Carbon payback happens within about 3 months
        Energy payback happens within about 5 months
        
Payback times in days:
        energy 146
        carbon 93.9
        carcinogens 22.5
        Respiratory organics 396.6 (just over a year of its 35+ year life)
        Resp. inorganics 386.5
        Ozone layer 393.4
        Ecotoxicity 209.6
        Acidification 205.6
        Fossil fuels 168.3
        news.energysage[DOT]com/how-long-do-solar-panels-last/
        https://www.yellowlite.com/blog/post/solar-systems-energy-payback-time-myth-busted/

        ”The authors found that for every doubling in solar capacity installed, energy used to produce solar panels decreased by 12-13 percent, and greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 17-24 percent, depending on the material used.”
        …thus speeding payback.

        From 1975, costs decreased by about 20% for every doubling in capacity
        Average lifespan: 30-odd years
        phys[DOT]org/news/2016-12-solar-panels-repay-energy-debt.html

        [1] If it’s completely foreseeable, absolutely preventable, and happens anyway, is it really an accident?
        [2] Capacity = mi2 x 1,858,560 modules/mi2 x 250 W/panel = 464.64 MW/mi2
        Output at 20% = ………. 425 TWh/yr.
        [3] and the 8 sites together would produce 19.7 times more than the one reactor.


      • A hundred times more subsidies is a very dubious claim. I’ve also heard claims that wind and solar get higher subsidies per electricity generated. It’s very hard to make such comparisons in complex energy systems, but I will point out that German electricity rates are like 50-100% higher than in France and their CO2 per unit of energy is like ten times (an order of magnitude!) higher.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        After 75 years of relentless PR blitz and about 100 times more subsidies than clean safe renewable energy has gotten, deadly radiation mostly powers 4 countries’ grids.

        I do have to point out that many more people have died from radiation from coal smoke than from atomic fission power plants. Inhaling the tiny amounts of radioactive particles put them in direct contact with living tissue (unlike, say, our protective dead skin layer), where they can mutate DNA to their hearts’ content. Even non-radioactive heavy metals in the smoke can trigger cancers.

        • J4Zonian Says:

          Absolutely. Because fossil fuel burners don’t directly get any power from radiation, I think technically my statement stands. But…

          Indirect effects are just as real as direct effects
          I think I’ve made it clear here that I think fossil fuels are bad…for many, many reasons. The fact remains that nuclear power and nuclear weapons are bad, too, and although their mortality and morbidity toll is certainly dwarfed by the 9 million killed every year by fossil fuel pollution and the millions more killed, maimed and made homeless by US oil wars and other fossil resource curse-caused conflict and oppression, we have no idea how many people have been killed and maimed by the whole nuclear fuel cycle.

          But even that barely begins to tally fossil fuel-owners’ toll of human and other murders [1]. The proto-fascist takeover of the US has been largely driven and funded by fossil (and some fissile) fuel owners. The lies they’ve created and spread are inextricably bound up with tobacco lies (same techniques, same people, same law firms, same PR firms that make up the jackalpack of alphabet agencies pushing right wing economics), The racism that’s been stirred up as a technique for gaining power for the fossil-fueled lunatic right has killed hundreds—a substantial part of the thousand people killed every year in the US just by police, for a start.

          The right wing deception and stealing of elections and governments through gerrymandering and voter suppression (see Greg Palast’s work, eg.) has also led to the rejection of universal health care, lack of which has bankrupted hundreds of thousands at least, and led directly to the deaths of thousands at least.

          The oligarchic duopoly allowed to rule by this destruction of democracy led and bankrolled above all by fossil fuel corporations [2] has kept our food system captive to agro-chemical corporations so exposure to biocides and the grossly unhealthy government-subsidized diet has killed millions as well. There are too many complicit industries to even list, but here’s just one more: Some of these corporations directly funded, and through campaign contributions and closely-related massive disinformation campaigns on climate, energy, and every other imaginable topic and then some, put in place legislators who attempted to violently overthrow the US government last year.

          [1] Recent reports of a billion sea creatures killed by warming, eg.
          [2] The Koch attempt to push through a right wing dominated Konstitutional Konvention may yet succeed.

          • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

            I think I’ve made it clear here that I think fossil fuels are bad…the proto-fascist takeover of the US…corporations directly funded, and through campaign contributions and closely-related massive disinformation campaigns on climate, energy…put in place legislators who attempted to violently overthrow the US government last year…Koch attempt to push through a right wing dominated Konstitutional Konvention….

            Yes, yes, but aside from that….

            😉

  2. jimbills Says:

    Mixed feelings here. On one hand, good, any effort is better than none – one the other, they are undoubtedly greenwashing for marketing purposes. It’s a little funny to me to think a massive corporation like Amazon would ever be carbon neutral, and the term ‘carbon neutral’ is so nebulous it reminds me more of a card trick magician than an honest and accurate practice. So much of these corporations business operations are overseas, where figures can easily be obscured, and who exactly is verifying their numbers on emissions? Themselves?

    But, seriously, it is a good thing that Amazon is moving to EVs and Apple has a bunch of solar panels.

    By themselves these things are wildly insufficient, and I worry a bit that they could provide a cover to stall or prevent broader governmental action (“hey, look, big business is already taking care of the problem, why do we need big guv involved?”), but it is also signaling to other companies a more action-oriented path. So, yeah, mixed feelings.

  3. greenman3610 Says:

    Big purchases of things like EVs and solar panels accelerate the cost declines in those areas, and are therefore valuable drivers of the transition


    • Major expansions in EVs, solar farms and batteries require major expansions in mining of various minerals. Opening new mines is very bureaucracy and energy intensive, among other things. When the demand for a mineral goes up, so does its price!

      https://www.manhattan-institute.org/mines-minerals-and-green-energy-reality-check

      • J4Zonian Says:

        Bullshit.

        Replacing fossil fuels with clean safe renewable energy means reducing mining by orders of magnitude. Of course that’s incredibly obvious—capital construction mining only vs. perpetual mining and drilling for fuels (plus much greater capital mining besides). It’s been said many times here and elsewhere, usually with numbers and sources I won’t bother pasting in any more. Maybe the blatant obviousness of the lies is the point for this troll; maybe being able to cause a ruckus with no knowledge at all about this or any subject is supposed to demonstrate some sort of primitive dominance. Does canman make monkey sounds while typing?

        The Manhattan Inst. needs a reality check; it’s just one more of the jackal pack of right wing economic PR firms pretending to be a think tank. It was founded by Reagan’s CIA director, Wm. Casey, funded by the uzhe suspects: Scaife, Mercer, Donors Trust, Walton Foundation, Kochs (of course), Exxon, PhRMA, Coors, CATO Inst., National Assoc. of Manufacturers, R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris… Wm. Kristol’s on the board. Staff members come from oil corporations and the American Petroleum Inst., involved from the beginning in climate denial and delay of solutions by any means necessary.

        MI has:
        Expressed anti-Islamic sentiments and support for the 2019 Christchurch NZ Islamophobe mass murderer,

        Lied about EVs to discourage the crucial shift,

        Lied for many years about climate, energy, economics, and politics.

        One lecture by serial mass denier Oren Cass, minimizing the horrific effects expected from climate catastrophe was canceled due to inclement weather.

        desmog[DOT]com/manhattan-institute-policy-research/

        MI Sr. Fellow R. Bryce: “With reference to climate change, Bryce has said: “I don’t know who’s right. And I don’t really care.” In a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Five Truths About Climate Change,” Bryce claimed that the “science is not settled, not by a long shot.””

        DeSmogBlog reports how Bryce suggests that fracked shale gas and nuclear are more environmentally preferable energy options to solar and wind power. Bryce had published a similar article in the Wall Street Journal earlier that week. DeSmog also notes how the New York Times failed to state the “clear conflict of interest” of the fossil-fuel funded Manhattan Institute.

        http://www.desmog.com/manhattan-institute-op-ed-exemplifies-why-ny-times-should-require-disclosure-financial-conflicts

        Paul Singer is also associated with this criminal organization; he might be THE premier vulture capitalist psychopath in the world. Greg Palast has written about him. A lot.

        gregpalast[DOT]com/tag/paul-singer/

        Etc.

        canman continues the right wing troll tradition of citing sources with absolutely zero credibility.

        So why is canman spreading lies? What mental illness is affecting him or her and why does s/he refuse to get it treated?

  4. Keith McClary Says:

    “plans to hit net zero by 2050”
    Means we don’t have to do anything for 28 years.

    “massive scaling-up of carbon capture technologies”
    Or will they be paying someone not to cut trees?

  5. redskylite Says:

    Here’s an excellent whiskey producer, running its trucks on the finest malt whiskey (waste) – can’t be bad, can it ? hic

    ======================================================

    Glenfiddich Pioneers Decarbonization of Transport with Trucks Run on Whiskey

    https://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/biogas/glenfiddich-pioneers-decarbonization-of-transport-with-trucks-20210809

  6. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    What do “pledges” mean? Is there a contractual obligation with a penalty?

  7. J4Zonian Says:

    They’ll be paying someone not to cut some trees while someone cuts other trees. (Maybe they can also charge different people to name the same trees over and over, like the star thing.)

    This is all a worse-than-useless scam unless we eat less meat, use less wood, make sure indigenous people control the forest, and protect everything that’s left–all 5% of it. And none of that will ever work without equality between nations and people….that is, as long as Wetiko makes us organize our relationships according to capitalism’s dictates.


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