Unlike politicians, Climate Pledge Arena will probably meet CO2 targets

Jun 29, 2020

Last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the new hockey arena in Seattle would be called “Climate Pledge Arena,” highlighting Amazon’s commitment to reduce CO2 emissions to net zero by 2040 – ten years ahead of the Paris Climate Accords.

I grew up playing hockey. My jersey was blue and white, like the Toronto Maple Leafs’ and I wore number 27, like Darryl Sitler (I never attained his hair style). I was Communications Director for both the Mariners and the Sonics. For the last 20 years, I’ve worked in environmental policy. This announcement checks all the boxes for me. Here are my thoughts.

The initial reaction of many was that the name is an extreme form of virtue signaling. But, that implies the signal isn’t backed up by anything meaningful. In this case, I think the building is likely to meet its energy and CO2-reduction goals. Amazon will probably meet the pledge. Amazon, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart have all made CO2-reduction promises. Wal-Mart already exceeded a previous pledge to cut 20 million metric tons of CO2 from its supply chain. I would be willing to bet that Amazon and Microsoft will too.

Contrast that with the CO2-targets set by politicians in Seattle and Washington state. Neither the city nor the state has come close to meeting any of their CO2-reduction targets. They have failed every time. Even the countries that have signed the Paris Accords, upon which the "Climate Pledge" is based, have not offered plans that will meet their obligations.

Pledging to meet the Paris Climate Accords 10 years early should please the environmental community. For some, it is not enough.A member of the Washington State Sierra Club executive committee demanded they also give away free transit passes before he would “start” to believe it. He didn’t take the time to find out that they already had done exactly that.

Greenpeace panned the name, calling it a “PR stunt.” I can’t remember Greenpeace saying the same thing about politicians who made similar climate promises they had no intention of keeping.

The responses of many in the environmental community – who praise politicians who repeatedly fail to deliver on environmental promises but are skeptical of businesses – is one reason people claim climate policy is simply a Trojan Horse for a big-government ideology. Unless it expands government, the greens aren’t all that green.

As a sports fan, I am annoyed that politics has completely invaded the sports world. The NBA is censoring critiques of China’s human rights policy but is now considering allowing players to replace their names with political slogans. Sports was once a unifying force – something everyone could enjoy independent of politics. We are losing that, and it is too bad.

But, if there is one thing sports teams and business are judged on, it is results, and it is likely they will meet the goals.