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The new North Star for corporate sustainability: Net zero

ImpactAlpha, Sept. 23The race is on to get to zero emissions. Joining the list of corporations pledging to reach net-zero emissions by 2050: Morgan Stanley, Walmart and Facebook.

As Climate Week begins, such pledges have doubled from last year, according to Data-Driven EnviroLab and NewClimate Institute, to more than 1,500 companies globally with combined revenues of more than $11.4 trillion, and almost 1,000 local governments.

Microsoft, which has gone further than most in pledging to erase all emissions it has ever generated by 2050, tops the organizations’ ranking of the 30 largest U.S. companies. Also in the top five: Apple, Intel, Cisco and Procter & Gamble.

Corporate collaboration: Microsoft backs Energy Impact Partners to speed the low-carbon transition

Morgan Stanley became the first major U.S. bank to commit to zeroing out by 2050 emissions facilitated by its loans, underwriting and other financial activities.

Environmental Defense Fund’s Ben Ratner said net zero emissions – where any carbon emissions are balanced by equal offsets or sequestering – has become “the North Star” for companies and investors. 

“Companies are becoming more serious in their commitments,” agreed Danielle Fugere of As You Sow. “Those companies that are acting affirmatively in the climate arena will increasingly have a competitive advantage.”

Still, just 30% of the “Dow 30” have committed to net-zero by 2050. And the goal itself may not be enough to “avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change,” the report cautions.

Other Climate Week highlights:

No offsets. Walmart on Monday set a target of zero emissions by 2040, without resorting to offsets. It’s plan: 100% renewable energy by 2035, zero vehicle emissions by 2040, and low-carbon heat and cooling in stores and facilities by 2040. “We face a growing crisis of climate change and nature loss, and we all need to take action with urgency,” said Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.

McMillion chairs the Business Roundtable, which recently endorsed a carbon pricing. 

Stepping up. China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, will aim to peak CO2 emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, said President Xi Jinping in a United Nations address on Tuesday.

Climate Finance 2020: Leaders and laggards in the race to net-zero

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