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KAI RYSSDAL: The United Nations General Assembly is having its annual meeting this week. U.N. Secretary General Ban Kyi Moon has put climate change at the top of the agenda — and today, in New York, talks aimed at a new global warming treaty began.
But some of the world’s largest corporations may be beating diplomats to the punch. Wal-Mart announced it will begin asking its suppliers to measure and report their climate-warming carbon emissions. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sam Eaton reports.
SAM EATON: Wal-Mart hopes to measure the amount of energy used by its suppliers to manufacture and ship a sample group of products. Jim Stanway heads Wal-Mart’s Global Supply Chain Initiatives. He says carbon emissions not only harm the environment, they cost money.
JIM STANWAY: And if we can remove those costs through applying technology, then it fits very well with our business model because we can then pass those cost reductions and savings through to customers in the form of lower prices.
Only 30 companies are taking part in Wal-Mart’s emissions reporting project. The retailer has more than 60,000 suppliers worldwide. And with today’s announcement touting voluntary agreements with suppliers like Fox Home Entertainment and Coca-Cola — companies that are already trying to cut their greenhouse gas emissions — some doubt the project will have enough of an impact.
DANIEL ESTY: The real question is how far Wal-Mart’s going to go into places like China.
Yale environmental law professor Daniel Esty says China is fast approaching the U.S. as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter. Much of that pollution, he says, comes from energy-hungry factories churning out products for Wal-Mart.
ESTY: So if we don’t get our arms around the supply-chain activities that stretch to China and other parts of the world, then we can’t really claim that we have a path forward that will solve the problem over time.
Wal-Mart wouldn’t say whether Chinese suppliers would eventually be included in the project. The retail giant has no plans to make emissions reporting mandatory for any its suppliers.
In Los Angeles, I’m Sam Eaton for Marketplace.
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