Coca-Cola, General Mills and more companies set goals to curb emissions

Over one hundred private companies, including Coca Cola Enterprises and Kellogg, are working with the scientific community to set emission-reduction goals through the Science Based Targets Initiative, according to a Tuesday announcement. 

Mario Anzuoni/AP/File
Various types of Kellogg's cereals for sale at a Ralphs grocery store in Pasadena, Calif. Kellogg is one of 10 companies that have developed emissions targets approved by an independent scientists at Science Based Target Initiative.

As the United Nation Paris climate talks proceed in Le Bourget, several big-name companies across the food, tech, and consumer goods industries are making their own commitments to combat climate change. 

Kellogg, Sony, eight other companies have developed emissions targets approved by an independent scientists at Science Based Target Initiative. Additionally, 104 more companies have committed to scientist-verified targets as part of the initiative. The pledges come as the role of the private sector has emerged as key in addressing climate change. 

The news follows the announcement of two initiatives, a dual private-public push to fund clean energy research, headed by Bill Gates. Mr. Gates announced the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC), a private partnership between dozes of billionaires interested in investing in early-stage clean energy technology, on Nov. 30. Later than day, Gates and President Barack Obama announced a public-sector, multi-country initiative to increase research on clean energy.

The commitments made over the course of the Paris talks, which also include pledges from Procter & Gamble, NRG Energy, and General Mills, give hope that the Paris talks could accomplish what previous talks were unable to do: prompt meaningful private-sector movement on climate change.

“We want to have a positive impact on people and the planet, and that includes going ‘all in’ to tackle climate change,“ said Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer of IKEA Group, in a statement posted to the initiative's website. 

Since 1997 and the Kyoto Protocol, governmental and non-governmental agencies have been seeking to attract private companies to commit to emissions cuts. Science Based Targets Initiative is the most successful push to date, drawing pledges from  114 companies to set emissions cuts verified by scientists and experts. 

The ten companies with approved proposals so far are Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., Dell Inc., General Mills, Procter & Gamble Company, Sony, Thalys, Enel, Kellogg Company, NRG Energy, and Pfizer. Combined, the ten companies' reduced emissions goals will equate to 2 billion barrels of oil not burned over their targets’ lifetimes, according to Reuters.

Gates also set precedents for private involvement in reducing climate change with his Breakthrough Energy Coalition last week, seeking to bring an entrepreneurial spirit to what he and other business titans see as a necessary area of investment.

“Our primary goal with the Coalition is as much to accelerate progress on clean energy as it is to make a profit,” Gates said in a statement posted on his website when the Coalition launched.

BEC is a group of billionaire investors who will be investing in early-stage clean energy technology, hoping to help bridge the gap between viable concept technology and profitable product. The coalition also believes the private sector can do what public groups cannot - namely, building companies, evaluating the possibility of success, and taking bigger risks on investments, the BEC website states.

The Mission Initiative, the multi-billion-dollar and multi-country initiative announced by Gates and President Obama, aims for 20 partner countries double their investments in clean energy technology and work closely with the BEC.

“... We understand that no one company, industry or government will mitigate climate change. It is an urgent and shared global challenge. Real progress toward more sustainable emission levels will require unprecedented collaboration and collective innovation.” said Ken Powell, chairman and CEO of General Mills, in a statement Tuesday.

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