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We need to defeat COVID-19. But climate change action and emission targets should stay the course.

As the global COVID-19 pandemic bears down on the world, we all need to do what we can to support our health care providers and keep our communities, employees, and families as safe as possible.

As we work to overcome the unprecedented challenges from this virus, we can also stay focused on decarbonizing our economy, to reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, since the dangers of climate change remain ever-present.

What is the Paris Climate Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a 2016 agreement stemming from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In addition to the United States, 186 other countries responsible for 97 percent of the world's climate pollution pledged to reduce their emissions beyond 2020 as part of the Paris Agreement.

Our fossil-fuel dependence, coupled with our sustained energy waste from buildings, contributes to a number of negative consequences, including air pollution. Particulate matter and air pollution make people more susceptible to respiratory illness. A look at the SARS epidemic in China in 2002 and 2003 found that patients from regions with high air pollution were ”twice as likely to die from SARS” compared to patients from regions with cleaner air.

In 2019, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell by about 2 percent, to about 5,783 million metric tons, due to reductions in the power industry, while direct emissions from buildings likely rose by more than 2 percent, among increases in other sectors, according to a January report by the Rhodium Group. At this rate, it will continue to be difficult for the U.S. to meet its pledge to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

How Redaptive is Helping Meet Paris Climate Agreement Goals

Fortunately, we have the tools to act now and meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Companies can take the lead on this by reducing energy use in their buildings. Action like this may not seem like much, but buildings and construction together account for 36 percent of global energy use and 39 percent of energy-related carbon emissions, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, so what may seem like small changes can add up to big impacts.

Redaptive has helped many companies lower emissions at their commercial and industrial properties by first analyzing their energy usage and then identifying and implementing ways to quickly reduce energy use, often through replacing lighting systems, HVAC, and other equipment. Financing these upgrades through our Efficiency-as-a-Service solution helps companies achieve energy savings faster, without having to worry about how to come up with the capital needed to pay for the projects.

Companies that increase their energy efficiency can make a big difference. If 100 companies increase their efficiency and double their energy productivity by 2030, over 170 million metric tons of emissions could be avoided, equivalent to taking 37 million cars and the associated air pollution off the road for a year, according to The Climate Group, the CDP and other groups which are working together to encourage companies to take action.

Redaptive, our customers, and many other companies around the world are committed to reducing emissions to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, which calls for limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and preventing a rise of more than 2 degrees C, above pre-industrial levels.

Companies Supporting the Paris Agreement

Despite efforts by the current administration to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, 2,200 U.S. businesses and investors are committed to continuing to support climate action to meet the Paris climate goals. Among them are Redaptive customers, such as AT&T and Iron Mountain, who have committed to science-based emission-reduction targets.

For example, AT&T has committed to carbon savings equal to 10 times the footprint of the company’s operations, by 2025. Redaptive is a proud supporter of AT&T’s carbon reduction efforts, which include multiple projects at over a thousand AT&T facilities.

Along with AT&T, Redaptive customers Iron Mountain and Saint-Gobain North America, and 837 other companies around the world have committed to science-based targets. Companies from all different industries are realizing there is a lot they can do, starting with increasing the energy efficiency of their operations.

Other companies are also stepping up. Delta Air Lines recently announced plans to invest $1 billion to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Bank of America has committed to meeting environmental operations goals by 2020, which includes becoming carbon-neutral and purchasing 100 percent renewable electricity. The bank also recently pledged to mobilize $300 billion in capital through 2030 in its Environmental Business Initiative.

Some companies are going further to support the Paris Climate Agreement. Microsoft, for one, has pledged to be carbon negative by 2030.

As the world continues to face uncertainty due to COVID-19, one thing is certain: What really matters is the same for all of us. It’s the health and safety of our friends, our family, our communities, our cities and our country. That’s what the coronavirus pandemic threatens, and that’s exactly what climate change does, too. The need to reduce our emissions continues. Fortunately, we have the technology and the resources we need to drastically reduce our emissions at scale. Now more than ever, we need to stay on it.