Food Giants Align For Climate Action

If you like ice cream and chocolate, you might want to pay attention.
General Mills is one of several companies that called on Thursday for strong government action on climate change.
General Mills is one of several companies that called on Thursday for strong government action on climate change.
Joe Raedle via Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- A Republican, a Democrat and a bunch of major food corporations put their support behind meaningful action on climate change Thursday.

Representatives from Mars, General Mills, Unilever, Ben & Jerry's and Nestle appeared at an event on Capitol Hill calling for strong government action on climate. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) hosted the event with the sustainable business group Ceres.

Whitehouse has been a major advocate for climate action in Congress, giving weekly speeches on the subject. And Gibson recently led an effort among House Republicans to get party leadership to pay attention to the problem.

Gibson said he's "optimistic about the future" and about finding ways to "open up conversation" on climate. "Certainly there will be areas where we disagree, but that's not as important as the areas where we agree," he said. He also talked up efforts to expand access to solar energy, like the Department of Energy's SunShot program, and the conversion of a coal-fired power plant at the U.S. Army's Fort Drum installation to biomass.

The food companies said climate change poses a risk to their ability to do business. "We fundamentally rely on Mother Nature to provide the ingredients for the food we serve," said Kim Nelson, senior vice president for external relations at General Mills. "If left unaddressed, [climate change] represents a variety of risks to our company and to our planet."

Nelson said the company relies on products like cocoa grown in West Africa and almonds grown in California, two regions afflicted by climate-change-driven drought. The food industry, by virtue of its reliance on agriculture, is inherently affected by climate change, Nelson said.

Those five companies, along with Kellogg, Stonyfield Farm, New Belgium Brewing, Danone and Clif Bar, also signed onto a letter published in the Washington Post and Financial Times arguing that "now is the time to meaningfully address the reality of climate change."

"We are asking you to embrace the opportunity presented to you in Paris, and to come back with a sound agreement, properly financed, that can affect real change," they wrote. "We are ready to meet the climate challenges that face our businesses."