AT&T Vows Carbon Neutrality, Braces for Severe Weather
By Dieter Holger
AT&T Inc. set out to reach net-zero emissions across its
operations and energy purchases by 2035 as it braces its U.S.
network for severe weather fueled by climate change.
The Dallas, Texas-based telecommunications giant said Thursday
that it would reach its new climate target through more efficient
equipment, renewable power, cleaner vehicles and replacing hardware
with software. It also didn't rule out carbon offsets, which are
often via tree planting and carbon-credit purchases.
"Our employees are responding to wildfires, hurricanes and
floods," said Charlene Lake, sustainability chief at AT&T, in
an interview. "Climate change is affecting our employees, it's
affecting our customers, it's expensing our expenses."
AT&T's pledge comes amid warnings from scientists of climate
change spurring more destructive fires, hurricanes and floods that
threaten the infrastructure of America's biggest corporations. The
company has spent around $1 billion to recover from severe weather
events since 2016.
"What is happening to the planet is happening to our business,"
Ms. Lake said.
The company didn't share a forecast on future spending for the
move to net-zero, but Ms. Lake said a green bond to help finance
the effort was "something that we're watching." AT&T has yet to
issue a green bond, unlike rival Verizon Communications Inc. that
has listed two such bonds, including one that raised $1 billion
this month and drew high demand from investors.
AT&T, which has tracked its emissions since 2008, placed the
new goal on its direct operations and energy purchases, known as
scope 1 and 2 emissions. Scope 3 emissions, which apply to
suppliers and products, aren't included. Though, Ms. Lake said the
company has required that half of its suppliers set their own
emission targets by 2024.
Ms. Lake declined to share which providers it was working with
for upcoming renewable-energy purchase agreements, but AT&T has
entered into such deals with Duke Energy Corp. and NextEra Energy
Inc. in recent years.
To fortify its network from severe weather to come, AT&T has
rolled out what it calls the Climate Change Analysis Tool,
supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National
Laboratory, which gives a 30-year view of what the company can
expect in terms of wind and flooding.
"If I know that today and I am building a cell site, I can
literally build a pedestal, build the ground up two or three feet
to put that cell site on so I can basically plan today for what
will be coming tomorrow," said Scott Mair, AT&T's president of
network operations, in the interview.
The wildfires raging on the West Coast are also raising concerns
at the company. It is working to expand its climate-prediction tool
to include droughts and fires in regions like the West Coast.
"Climate change is happening," Mr. Mair said.
Still, Mr. Mair stressed that AT&T can't foresee if its
spending on weather-related disaster recovery will grow as climate
change worsens. For example, this year has seen a record number of
tropical storms in the Atlantic, but which storms make landfall has
varied over the years.
"I can't predict the future," Mr. Mair said. "I can respond to
what Mother Nature has to say as it happens."
Write to Dieter Holger at email@example.com;
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 17, 2020 10:14 ET (14:14 GMT)
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