Action on climate change gaining momentum

by Keith Nunes
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KANSAS CITY — It may not have been a lead story in U.S. news this past week (that “honor” apparently goes to Donald Trump), but there has been quite a bit of news about climate change and the actions needed from public and private entities to reduce its impact on the United States and the rest of the world.

Discussion about the issue emanated from the Department of Defense, which released a report on July 29 calling climate change a “security risk,” to the office of the Secretary of State. The Pentagon report said climate change will degrade living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations. Communities and states that already are fragile and have limited resources are significantly more vulnerable to disruption and far less likely to respond effectively and be resilient to new challenges, they added.

“The Department of Defense’s primary responsibility is to protect national security interests around the world,” Pentagon officials said. “This involves considering all aspects of the global security environment and planning appropriately for potential contingencies and the possibility of unexpected developments both in the near and the longer terms.

“It is in this context, that the department must consider the effects of climate change — such as sea level rise, shifting climate zones and more frequent and intense severe weather events — and how these effects could impact national security.”

On July 27, executives from such companies as Cargill, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Wal-Mart as well as several other companies not in the food industry met with Secretary of State John Kerry and pledged their support for the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. The effort is a public and private partnership intended to highlight actions being taken to address climate change.

As part of its participation, Minneapolis-based Cargill, for example, said it would reduce greenhouse gas intensity, improve freshwater efficiency and improve energy efficiency by 5% when compared to its 2015 baseline. In addition, the company said it would increase renewable energy to 18% of its total energy use, which is up from the current figure of 14%.

The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, said it would reduce its carbon footprint by 25% by 2020. Efforts announced by PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y., ranged from implementing hydrofluorocarbon-free point-of-sale equipment; reducing greenhouse gas emissions by shifting its vehicle fleet to alternative forms of fuel; striving for zero deforestation in its supply chain by 2020; and increasing the amount of recycled content used in its packaging.

The issue of climate change will remain a focal point for the food and beverage industry in the weeks and months ahead. In August, the Global Sustainability Summit, a conference jointly hosted by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, will take place in Denver. The event reinforces the industry’s commitment to providing solutions to such a complex problem.

And finally, in December, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Paris. At the meeting, heads of state will discuss how to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of creating a new global agreement that may build upon the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Food and beverage manufacturers, whether they are large or small, have made significant contributions to addressing the conditions that influence climate change. It is hoped that as calls for action continue to grow louder the industry will continue to respond with the same clear-eyed, focused leadership that has shown in the past.

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