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Atlanta companies double down on clean energy following Trump announcement

By Maria Saporta and Dave Williams
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 9, 2017

Atlanta-based corporate giants and major companies with an Atlanta presence stopped short of joining the chorus of criticism Democrats and environmentalists heaped on President Donald Trump’s decision June 1 to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.

But The Coca-Cola Co., Delta Air Lines Inc., The Home Depot Inc., and others firmly renewed their commitments to pursuing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, goals set forth by the 2015 Paris accord.

James Quincy Muhtar Kent

Coca-Cola’s leadership team – CEO James Quincey and Chairman Muhtar Kent – have taken a strong stand in favor of the Paris Climate Agreement (Special: Coca-Cola Co.)

The most strongly worded statement came in a May 10 letter signed by 30 CEOs and published in a full-page Wall Street Journal ad urging the president not to abandon the Paris agreement. Its signatories included James Quincey of Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) and Michael B. Polk of Newell Brands Inc. (NYSE: NWL)

“Based on our experience doing business all over the world, we believe there is strong potential for negative trade implications if the United States exits from the Paris agreement,” the letter stated. “The Paris agreement gives us that flexible framework to manage climate change while providing a smooth transition for business.”

Other Atlanta companies responded to Trump’s announcement by touting their support for energy efficiency and emissions reductions but not directly mentioning the Paris agreement.

“Delta continues making improvements across our operations — both on the ground and in the air — to improve fuel efficiency and reduce our carbon footprint,” Delta (NYSE: DAL) wrote.

United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS) offered similar sentiments.

“Shifting demographics, e-commerce and the growing on-demand economy pose environmental, congestion and transportation challenges,” UPS wrote. “[But] UPS is committed to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live and work.”

Tom Fanning and Paul Bowers

Southern Co. CEO Tom Fanning and Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers at the company’s 2017 annual meeting (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Some companies cited specific targets in their responses to the president’s announcement on the Paris accord.

“We remain focused on our efforts to achieve our goal to reduce the carbon footprint of the drink in your hand by 25 percent by 2020,” Coca-Cola wrote. “We are on track to meet this commitment, having achieved a 14 percent carbon reduction by the end of 2015.”

Southern Co. (NYSE: SO), added a note of pragmatism to its response to the president’s announcement.

“Southern Co. will continue its commitment to a leadership role in finding environmental solutions that make technological and economic sense,” Southern wrote. “The focus of this effort must be on developing and deploying technologies that reduce [greenhouse gases] while ensuring energy remains reliable and affordable.”

Dave Williams is the government reporter for the Atlanta Business Chronicle

Paris Climate Agreement

The full-page ad that CEOs of 30 companies signed urging the United States to remain part of the Paris Climate Agreement

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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