ICYMI: Business Roundtable Leaders Discuss Private Sector Innovation and Contributions to a Low-Carbon Future at COP27

November 16, 2022

On Wednesday, November 9, Business Roundtable CEOs and other company leaders participated in a panel discussion, “CEOs Accelerating the Global Low-Carbon Transition,” at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The discussion focused on the unique initiatives their companies have undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and help advance a low-carbon future through data-driven innovation and strategic partnerships, with appropriate policy that supports both. 

The panel was moderated by Kara Hurst, Chief Sustainability Officer at Amazon, who facilitated a discussion between business leaders from four additional Roundtable member companies. Panelists included George Oliver, Chair of the Business Roundtable Energy and Environment Committee and Chairman and CEO of Johnson Controls; Michael Kasbar, Chairman, President and CEO of World Fuel Services Corporation; Pedro Pizarro, CEO of Edison International; and Solomon Assefa, Vice President at IBM Research.

What They Are Saying

On What Companies Are Doing:

  • Hurst: “At Amazon, we have committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions across our operations by 2040 – 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. We are on a path to powering our operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025 and by the end of 2021 the company had reached 85%. As the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy globally, Amazon now has a total of more than 375 renewable energy projects, representing 18.5 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity.”
  • Oliver: “From a digital standpoint, our OpenBlue Platform allows us to bridge all of the systems into one data platform, be able to apply AI and achieve different outcomes … that can [lead to] more efficiency in the building. More important, with that efficiency we can reduce the energy consumed 30, 40, 50%. So, our focus has been combining that technology with all of our systems that ultimately creates a net zero building as a service.”
  • Pizarro: “How do you get there? Renewable power and storage on the supply side, electrifying three-quarters of transportation and 90% of buildings, using clean fuels like hydrogen and carbon capture—really using all the tools in the toolbox.”
  • Kasbar: "In terms of SAF [Sustainable Aviation Fuel], these are pioneers, these are folks that have dedicated decades, without really a lot of support, without a lot of people believing them…it’s admirable and the thing that we do is support those individuals wherever we can, we will invest in them and certainly support them [by] … underwriting a lot of energy distribution …we just try to be in the good column.”
  • Assefa: “Leveraging technologies such as AI and the cloud to drive well-informed reduction of their own carbon footprint. … The most exciting thing for me is the innovation side. … We have about 3,000 research scientists around the world and if you ask them now what are they working on, they will tell you ‘we’re working on climate and sustainability.’”

On the Business Community’s Leadership:

  • Oliver: “The business community over the last few years has really elevated the commitment to ultimately protect the environment and execute in our individual industries … now, there’s an urgency to work together and drive progress to protect the planet’s health.”
  • Pizarro: “We’re seeing a greater sense of urgency in the business community. … We also see an important role for increasing U.S. competitiveness in global markets by having more of these technologies [produced] here [in the U.S.].”

On the Need for Supportive Policy & Partnerships to Accelerate a Transition to a Clean Energy Future:

  • Hurst: “[decarbonizing our transportation network] is intended to drive innovation across the industry and encourage more public charging infrastructure, which will help enable the broader transportation industry to more quickly reduce emissions. But it will take time to remove carbon emissions from heavy transportation systems, including ocean shipping, aviation, and trucking. Governments and the private sector need to come together on this important work.”
  • Oliver: “As we’re doing that [working to reduce energy consumption/GHG emissions], there’s been a big focus on how do we now drive the partnerships, the policies and then the standards to really drive a significant step forward to decarbonize. … There’s an urgency now in the private sector but working with the public sector globally to be able to drive standards to what we believe is possible today. … That can make a real big difference.”
  • Pizarro: “It’s been helpful to see the support through the bipartisan infrastructure bill … the CHIPS Plus Act. I think all of [that legislation] will help to strengthen the manufacturing base and the research and development base in the U.S. to contribute that globally.”
  • Kasbar: “We’re really dealing with triangulating the trilemma of resiliency, security, affordability and access and sustainability and we’ve got the triumvirate of public, private, and societal factors that you need to navigate."
  • Assefa: “Everyone needs to be able to partner together so that we can really drive and accelerate innovation.”

On Sustainability with an Eye Toward the Future:

  • Oliver: “Instead of [some business leaders] resisting, embrace and act. … This is the one single issue globally that brings us all together.”
  • Pizarro: “As we look forward … so much of the investment is linked directly to sustainability and clean energy."
  • Kasbar: “We have this incredible transformation, and it does take everybody. Every bit counts, so just get started.”
  • Assefa: “Sustainability isn’t something you do on the side. It’s a business imperative.”

Business Roundtable members have been helping to lead the charge when it comes to reducing GHG emissions in the United States and globally by executing on initiatives to reduce energy consumption, accelerate technology adoption and shape smart energy and sustainability policy.

The Roundtable also recognizes the U.S. will not meet its climate goals without reforming the permitting process for energy infrastructure projects. For the U.S. to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, an unprecedented amount of new infrastructure must be planned, permitted and built within the next decade. The current permitting system is a roadblock to the new infrastructure projects.

Business Roundtable is calling on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation reforming the permitting process for energy infrastructure projects this year. The reforms the Roundtable supports would reduce emissions, uphold environmental protections and pave the way for the U.S. to become a clean energy powerhouse. Learn more here.