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We signed the Climate Declaration — and your firm should, too

By Meaghan Farrell
Crain's Chicago Business
In May, Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. became the first major Chicago company to sign the Climate Declaration, a call for a coordinated effort to combat climate change. Becoming a signatory is more than just words — it underscores our view that climate change is a serious global challenge that represents a major economic opportunity in terms of energy savings.

In May, Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. became the first major Chicago company to sign the Climate Declaration, a call for a coordinated effort to combat climate change. Becoming a signatory is more than just words — it underscores our view that climate change is a serious global challenge that represents a major economic opportunity in terms of energy savings. So why haven't more major Chicago companies signed?

Anyone who believes that fighting climate change entails financial sacrifice should take a look at the cost-benefit analysis. Our clients have generated roughly $100 million in annual cost savings by reducing their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, while investing only a fraction of that amount in energy-reduction strategies.

Through the Climate Change Declaration, our company has joined such global brands as General Motors, Unilever, Nestle, Swiss Re, Intel, Nike and Starbucks, along with hundreds of small businesses, in calling for President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to put politics aside and act boldly. Our national policymakers are lagging behind our major companies, many of which are embracing clean energy, boosting efficiency and limiting carbon emissions in the absence of a national policy consensus.

But we have more work to do. Because Jones Lang LaSalle works so closely with buildings at home and abroad, our company is on the front lines of the battle with waste, pollution and climate change. Residential and commercial building energy consumption accounts for approximately 38 percent of America's greenhouse-gas emissions — and even more in some cities, such as New York. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, commercial buildings in the U.S. pay a total of nearly $170 billion a year on energy bills, despite numerous cost-effective opportunities to cut waste.

In our view, we can tackle climate change through energy efficiency and other means, while bolstering American economic opportunities. Experts estimate that America could cut its total energy use and emissions in half with deep, but cost-saving, policy reforms.

HOW TO MAKE IT WORK

One smart step would be a pricing mechanism for carbon emissions. Americans are already paying a hidden price for over-use of fossil fuels. Making that cost explicit would help companies prioritize carbon-reduction initiatives and technologies.

Another advance would be to require building owners to disclose their properties' energy use, as has recently become law in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Austin, Texas, and Minneapolis. We also need better financing strategies for building owners eager to upgrade their energy systems.

The more companies and individuals who sign the Climate Declaration, the stronger the message to our national policymakers to enact strong climate legislation. We strongly encourage other Chicago companies to take action and become signatories to this important movement.

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