Leading CEOs Call for International Climate Action this December

"[T]he private sector has a responsibility to actively engage in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and to help lead the global transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy."

This was the assertion of a coalition comprised of 43 CEOs from major companies in an open letter to world leaders, urging them to reach an ambitious climate deal this December in Paris for the 21st UNFCCC Conference of Parties. Companies in the coalition represented 20 economic sectors, and included Volvo, Accenture, Dow Chemical, Ericsson, HSBC, IKEA, Toshiba, and Unilever among others.

The commitments announced by the CEOs included voluntary actions by their companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or energy consumption, to inform the public that climate change is real, and to manage climate risks. The 43 companies in the coalition together generated $1.2 trillion in revenue in 2014, comparable to the GDP of the entire Mexican economy.

There are skeptics who doubt the science of climate change, or who downplay the potential risks it brings, as well as those who argue that mitigating greenhouse gases or adapting to climate change will hurt the economy. Many of those climate deniers are funded by interest groups or ideology. Yet, 43 CEOs of some of the most well-known companies on the planet would not be signing onto this letter unless they were well-informed about climate change and the potential dangers it brings. These CEOs are making a wise business decision, and they understand the potential benefits for their companies of mitigating emissions and shifting to more sustainable operations.

They understand that as with any other market transformation, it is best to take the lead - there are expensive consequences for ignoring climate risk, but large potential rewards from being leaders in energy efficient operations, in using renewable fuels, and in creating clean jobs and low carbon growth that will support their companies and promote a sustainable economic model for the future.

The letter includes an extensive list of key initiatives and platforms taking action with leading businesses on climate change. I wouldn't be surprised if we hear of many companies becoming increasingly vocal in their support for smart climate change policy in the months ahead as we get closer to securing a strong international climate agreement.

Case in point: Apple Inc.'s newly released 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report could not be any clearer where the company stands: "We don't want to debate climate change. We want to stop it."