Big companies commit to slash emissions ahead of UN climate summit

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will host an emergency summit on Monday in which he will urge world leaders to raise their commitments made in the 2015 Paris climate accord. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 September 2019

Big companies commit to slash emissions ahead of UN climate summit

  • Some companies in the coalition have agreed to slash their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, including Swiss food company Nestle
  • Others have stopped short of committing to go carbon neutral but say they will align their operations with a goal of limiting the increase in average global temperatures

UNITED NATIONS: Almost 90 big companies in sectors from food to cement to telecommunications are pledging to slash their greenhouse gas emissions in a new campaign to steer multi-nationals toward a low-carbon future, organizers said on Sunday.
We Mean Business, a coalition of advocacy groups, said dozens of companies had joined the initiative in the two months leading up to a United Nations summit taking place on Monday, which aims to spur faster action on climate change.
“Now we need many more companies to join the movement, sending a clear signal that markets are shifting,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
The coalition was launched in June with a call to action by the United Nations, business and civil society leaders. The first 28 companies to join announced the following month. We Mean Business said 87 companies are now involved, with total market capitalization of more than $2.3 trillion.
Some companies in the coalition have agreed to slash their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, including Swiss food company Nestle, French building materials company Saint-Gobain, and French cosmetics maker L’Oreal .
Others have stopped short of committing to go carbon neutral but say they will align their operations with a goal of limiting the increase in average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
This group includes Finnish telecoms company Nokia , French food group Danone and British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc, We Mean Business said.
As accelerating climate impacts from melting ice caps to sea-level rise and extreme weather outpace climate models, scientists say the world needs to halve its greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade to avoid catastrophic warming.
With fossil fuel companies still developing new oil and gas fields and many developing countries expanding coal-fired power, the coalition’s pledges are minuscule relative to rising global emissions.
Some experts have questioned whether publicly traded companies committed to maximizing shareholder returns will be able to make the sweeping investments required to fight climate change. Yet many investors have been pressuring companies to act on climate risks, and chief executives also face pressure from an upsurge in youth-led activism, which mobilized millions around the world to protest on Friday.
We Mean Business believes pledges by a core of mostly European, and some North American and Asian companies, to commit to independently-verified emissions targets will prompt others to follow suit.
“These bold companies are leading the way toward a positive tipping point where 1.5°C-aligned corporate strategies are the new normal for businesses and their supply chains around the world,” said Lise Kingo, chief executive of the UN Global Compact, which promotes responsible business practices.
UN chief Guterres sees the private sector as crucial to securing more ambitious pledges at Monday’s Climate Action Summit in New York, which aims to boost the Paris deal before it enters a crucial implementation phase next year.
Companies such as Danish power group Orsted, Spanish energy company Iberdrola and German insurer Allianz are due to speak alongside governments at the one-day gathering, according to a draft agenda.


Tulips from Amsterdam? A blooming scam, says new probe

This file photo taken on March 6, 2003 shows bulbs at the flower market in Amsterdam. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2019

Tulips from Amsterdam? A blooming scam, says new probe

  • Tulip bulbs should only be sold between August to December and planted before the start of the (northern hemisphere) winter, in order for the flowers to bloom in spring

THE HAGUE: Tourists are being ripped off at Amsterdam’s famous flower market, with just one percent of all bulbs sold at the floating bazaar ever producing a blossom, investigators said Tuesday.
A probe commissioned by the Dutch capital’s municipality and tulip growers also found that often only one flower resembled the pictures on the packaging like color, and that there were fewer bulbs than advertised.
“The probe showed that there is chronic deception of consumers,” at the sale of tulip bulbs at the flower market, the Royal General Bulb Growers’ Association (KAVB) said.
“Millions of tourists and day-trippers are being duped,” KAVB chairman Rene le Clercq said in a statement.
Amsterdam and the KAVB have now referred the matter to the Dutch consumer watchdog.
The Amsterdam flower market is one of the city’s most famous landmarks and dates from around 1862, when flower sellers sailed their barges up the Amstel River and moored them in the “Singel” to sell their goods.
Its fame inspired the popular song “Tulips from Amsterdam,” best known for a 1958 version by British entertainer Max Bygraves.
Today the market comprises of a number of fixed barges with little greenhouses on top. Vendors not only sell tulip bulbs but also narcissus, snowdrops, carnations, violets, peonies and orchids.
But of 1,363 bulbs bought from the Singel and then planted, just 14 actually bloomed, the investigation said.
Investigators found a similar problem along the so-called “flower bulb boulevard” in Lisse, a bulb-field town south of Amsterdam where the famous Keukenhof gardens are also situated.
Since first imported from the Ottoman Empire 400 years ago, tulips “have become our national symbol and the bulb industry a main player in the Dutch economy,” said Le Clercq.
But the “deception about the tulip bulbs is a problem that has been existing for the past 20 years,” he added.

The victims are often tourists, KAVB director Andre Hoogendijk said.
“A tourist who buys a bad bulb is not likely to come back,” he told Amsterdam’s local AT5 news channel.
Vendors at the market told AT5 that complaints were known.
“There are indeed stalls here that sell rubbish. That is to everyone’s disadvantage, because it portrays the whole flower market in a bad light,” one unidentified vendor said.
But a spokesperson for the City of Amsterdam said that all vendors were being investigated “and that the results are shocking.”
“So to say that it is only a few stalls is not true,” the spokesperson told AFP in an email.
The probe took place earlier in the year during springtime, the spokesperson said.
“The issue is that you shouldn’t even sell tulip bulbs during the spring. No decent florist shop in Holland does that.”
Tulip bulbs should only be sold between August to December and planted before the start of the (northern hemisphere) winter, in order for the flowers to bloom in spring.