Crossposted from the Davis Enterprise
From page A9 | November 15, 2017

There’s been an avalanche of news recently about the current discussions in Bonn, Germany, about the climate crisis. Leaders of all of the countries of the world are gathered to follow up on the Paris Climate Agreement.

This was part of the plan. Everyone knew that just signing the agreement would not keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The agreement is structured to require continuous review and, if necessary, adjustment to meet emission targets.

Each country’s plan is scrutinized. Is it meeting its proposed reduction target? If not, why not, and what needs to be done to strengthen the plan to meet those targets?

As an aside, previous accounts of the agreement were unable to say that all countries on the planet were in and committed. At the time of signing, both Syria and Nicaragua, for different reasons, did not sign, and were the only ones not to do so. Both have announced that they will participate, which means that the United States, or rather the leader of the United States, is the only non-player on this existential issue. Pause for a moment and give that guy a big raspberry.

In large part, the news stories are focusing on what is taking place in terms of leadership on the issue of the climate crisis. China, Germany, Canada and France have all stepped up since President Trump bailed out of the Paris Climate Agreement. The repercussions are not just political; in large part, our lack of leadership will result in more than just isolation and ridicule from the rest of the world, it also means we will be ceding the future to other countries in terms of industrial development and jobs.

So, on the national level, at least in the U.S., the picture looks both grim and stupid. But the conference in Bonn also has shined a light on efforts at the subnational level. A column or two ago, I wrote about projects by states, cities and other jurisdictions that have formed the “We Are Still In” coalition, pledging to pursue the goals of the Paris agreement at a more local level.

Leading this effort in the U.S. is California Gov. Jerry Brown. Pause a moment to give this guy a round of applause. He clearly sees the climate crisis as an existential threat and has engaged the state of California in aggressive actions to respond.

But the term “subnational” does not just refer to state, county and city governments. The coalition also includes colleges and universities, faith organizations and more than 2,000 businesses, including more than half of the largest and most influential businesses in the country.

Just a couple of examples: Facebook is building a $750 million data center in Virginia that will be 100-percent powered by renewable energy sources. JP Morgan Chase announced it is increasing energy efficiency at roughly 4,500 branch offices across the United States in order to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2020; it routinely offsets 100 percent of its emissions related to air travel.

Similar actions are being taken by Google, Apple, Nike and Microsoft that together represent combined annual revenue of nearly $1.5 trillion.

Another aside: It is estimated that the subnational governments signed up with the “We Are Still In” coalition represent nearly one-sixth of the world’s population.

Coalitions don’t just happen on their own; someone, or some group, has to organize efforts like the “We Are Still In” campaign. In this case, it’s an organization by the name of We Mean Business, and it is acting to bring together businesses from all over the world.

According to its CEO, in answer to the question of whether business can “save the world” from the climate crisis, “The simple answer is there’s no saving the world without business. but business can’t do it on its own. The reason we need these kinds of coalitions is so that both business leaders and political leaders hear loud and clear that actually the majority of businesses understand that we’ve got to change and actually are on board and already in motion.”

We Mean Business does not just collect names; its goal is to also provide a “framework for corporate commitments” that includes adoption of “science-based greenhouse gas-reduction targets.” They work with a collaboration of groups — including the United Nations, the World Resources Institute, the World Wide Fund and the Climate Disclosure Project — that have formed another organization: Science Based Targets.

This group provides the rigor to identify measurable greenhouse-gas reduction targets and assists the companies in determining what actions they can take (and monitor) to actually quantify whether they are reaching those targets.

The goal of Science Based Targets is simple, “Our mission is to make science-based targets the new norm.” The group indicates that thus far, “Sixty-two companies have set approved, science-based targets for emission reductions. For example, Coca-Cola HBC, a leading bottler of the Coca-Cola Company, has committed to a science-based target of reducing its emissions by 50 percent per liter of drink by 2020.”

We Mean Business also promotes renewable energy and has identified more than 100 companies committed to the goal of 100-percent renewable energy.

— John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis; his column is published on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Send comments to