Big companies commit to slash emissions ahead of UN climate summit

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will host an emergency summit on Monday in which he will urge world leaders to raise their commitments made in the 2015 Paris climate accord. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 September 2019

Big companies commit to slash emissions ahead of UN climate summit

  • Some companies in the coalition have agreed to slash their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, including Swiss food company Nestle
  • Others have stopped short of committing to go carbon neutral but say they will align their operations with a goal of limiting the increase in average global temperatures

UNITED NATIONS: Almost 90 big companies in sectors from food to cement to telecommunications are pledging to slash their greenhouse gas emissions in a new campaign to steer multi-nationals toward a low-carbon future, organizers said on Sunday.
We Mean Business, a coalition of advocacy groups, said dozens of companies had joined the initiative in the two months leading up to a United Nations summit taking place on Monday, which aims to spur faster action on climate change.
“Now we need many more companies to join the movement, sending a clear signal that markets are shifting,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
The coalition was launched in June with a call to action by the United Nations, business and civil society leaders. The first 28 companies to join announced the following month. We Mean Business said 87 companies are now involved, with total market capitalization of more than $2.3 trillion.
Some companies in the coalition have agreed to slash their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, including Swiss food company Nestle, French building materials company Saint-Gobain, and French cosmetics maker L’Oreal .
Others have stopped short of committing to go carbon neutral but say they will align their operations with a goal of limiting the increase in average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
This group includes Finnish telecoms company Nokia , French food group Danone and British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc, We Mean Business said.
As accelerating climate impacts from melting ice caps to sea-level rise and extreme weather outpace climate models, scientists say the world needs to halve its greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade to avoid catastrophic warming.
With fossil fuel companies still developing new oil and gas fields and many developing countries expanding coal-fired power, the coalition’s pledges are minuscule relative to rising global emissions.
Some experts have questioned whether publicly traded companies committed to maximizing shareholder returns will be able to make the sweeping investments required to fight climate change. Yet many investors have been pressuring companies to act on climate risks, and chief executives also face pressure from an upsurge in youth-led activism, which mobilized millions around the world to protest on Friday.
We Mean Business believes pledges by a core of mostly European, and some North American and Asian companies, to commit to independently-verified emissions targets will prompt others to follow suit.
“These bold companies are leading the way toward a positive tipping point where 1.5°C-aligned corporate strategies are the new normal for businesses and their supply chains around the world,” said Lise Kingo, chief executive of the UN Global Compact, which promotes responsible business practices.
UN chief Guterres sees the private sector as crucial to securing more ambitious pledges at Monday’s Climate Action Summit in New York, which aims to boost the Paris deal before it enters a crucial implementation phase next year.
Companies such as Danish power group Orsted, Spanish energy company Iberdrola and German insurer Allianz are due to speak alongside governments at the one-day gathering, according to a draft agenda.


South Korean cafe hires robot barista to help with social distancing

Updated 25 May 2020

South Korean cafe hires robot barista to help with social distancing

  • It is believed the robots could help with social distancing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues
  • The manufacturer and the scientific institute aim to supply at least 30 cafes with robots this year

DAEJEON, South Korea: The new robot barista at the cafe in Daejeon, South Korea, is courteous and swift as it seamlessly makes its way toward customers.
“Here is your Rooibos almonds tea latte, please enjoy. It’s even better if you stir it,” it says, as a customer reaches for her drink on a tray installed within the large, gleaming white capsule-shaped computer.
After managing to contain an outbreak of the new coronavirus which infected more than 11,000 people and killed 267, South Korea is slowly transitioning from intensive social distancing rules toward what the government calls “distancing in daily life.”
Robots could help people observe social distancing in public, said Lee Dong-bae, director of research at Vision Semicon, a smart factory solution provider which developed the barista robot together with a state-run science institute.
“Our system needs no input from people from order to delivery, and tables were sparsely arranged to ensure smooth movements of the robots, which fits will with the current ‘untact’ and distancing campaign,” he said.
The system, which uses a coffee-making robotic arm and a serving robot, can make 60 different types of coffee and serves the drinks to customers at their seats. It can also communicate and transmit data to other devices and contains self-driving technology to calculate the best routes around the cafe.
An order of six drinks, processed through a kiosk, took just seven minutes. The only human employee at the two-story cafe was a patissier who also has some cleaning duties and refills ingredients.
The manufacturer and the scientific institute aim to supply at least 30 cafes with robots this year.
“Robots are fun and it was easy because you don’t have to pick up your order,” said student Lee Chae-mi, 23. “But I’m also a bit of worried about the job market as many of my friends are doing part-time jobs at cafes and these robots would replace humans.”