The push by companies to reduce their carbon footprint and become more energy efficient, including many fashion firms, is contributing to the U.S. transition to a clean energy economy.
The fourth annual “Energy Report,” released Monday by the Natural Resources Defense Council, showed the move toward clean energy is “irrevocably underway and delivering deep pollution reductions, with coal use at record lows but renewable energy higher than ever.”
More than 150 companies have signed the White House pledge to reduce carbon emissions since it was issued in 2015. The American Business Act on Climate Pledge is an effort to enlist the help of the business community to reduce its carbon footprint and stave off climate change.
VF Corp. said last month it had reduced global carbon emissions 12 percent from 2011 to 2015, exceeding the 5 percent goal originally set for that five-year period. VF said its achievement prevented more than 38,000 tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere, the equivalent of the electricity needed to power 5,710 homes for one year.
The NRDC report said 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in a state with a goal of at least 50 percent renewable energy.
Ralph Cavanagh, codirector of the NRDC Energy Program and a coauthor of the report, said: “The nationwide momentum for pollution-free energy is undeniable and irresistible because clean energy now costs less than dirty energy. However, strong local, state, and federal policies are necessary for the United States to remain competitive globally and ensure clean energy technology and employment surge to the highest possible levels here at home.”
One key factor in a revival of U.S. textile manufacturing has been the low cost of energy compared to Asian countries, which has helped balance higher labor costs, as had the move toward more automation that has also been boosted by more energy-efficient equipment.
“The United States is changing fundamentally across the energy sector, accelerating away from fossil fuels into a clean energy future,” said the report. “The trend, obvious for more than a decade, is a combined product of state and federal policy harmonized with potent economic forces. Coal-fired generation dropped to historic lows this year, producing only one-third of our electricity, while renewable energy generation reached record highs, with more than one-eighth of America’s electricity generated from solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable resources.”
The report noted that the U.S. helped achieve a successful agreement at the historic global climate negotiations in Paris at the Conference of the Parties 21 that included greenhouse gas reduction targets for 195 nations after 2020.
“For the United States, that means economy-wide cuts up to 28 percent below 2005 GHG emissions levels by 2025,” said the report. “As energy policy expert Michael Grunwald wrote shortly after the 2016 presidential election, ‘even if [the United States were] to withdraw from the Paris climate deal, the U.S. is on track to fulfill its pledges under that deal.’”
President-elect Donald Trump had said during the campaign that he would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, but then said in a post-election interview that he had an “open mind” on the pact. He has also promised to increase “clean coal” production, but many experts have questioned the need and practicality of such a policy.
The NRDC report notes the U.S. has also worked to reduce pollution from the transportation sector by improving vehicle efficiency through standards, advancing cleaner fuels, promoting electric vehicle use and improving land use practices.
To continue the nation’s clean energy progress, the NRDC report urges the federal government should remain an active partner in a clean energy transition driven increasingly by the recognition that clean energy is cheaper than dirty energy, the transportation sector should incentivize electric vehicles and strengthen fuel economy standards to continue reducing U.S. reliance on oil, and clean energy companies and businesses should also lead the way, creating jobs for the sustainable energy economy.
The NRDC is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2.4 million members and online activists that work to protect the world’s natural resources, public health and the environment.