When Microsoft founder Bill Gates announced the high-powered Breakthrough Energy Coalition at the Paris climate summit in December, it was a big deal. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Alibaba’s Jack Ma, Indian business magnates Mukesh Ambani and Ratan Tata, and Virgin founder Richard Branson are among the corporate and institutional partners in this multibillion-dollar alliance to invest in clean-energy technologies.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition may possess gigawatt star power, but it’s not the only group bent on reducing harmful emissions. Coalitions promoting clean-energy innovation, investment and policies have labored for years. They are gaining new traction as governments join corporations and other stakeholders to stem global warming.

The Paris agreement boosted interest and investment in clean energy. (© AP Images)

Paris was only the beginning

The Paris climate summit, at which most of the world’s countries committed to lowering greenhouse-gas emissions during the next several decades, gave momentum to organizations like Ceres. Originally the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, Ceres has been mobilizing business leaders to take environmental action and influencing policymakers to enact regulations that encourage green-business investments since 1989.

In a recent blog post, Ceres President Mindy Lubber says that as encouraging as the Paris agreement is, its commitment to net-zero carbon emissions and holding global temperature rise to under 2 degrees Celsius will require stronger action. “Global clean-energy investments are still only a fraction of what is needed to move the carbon pollution needle downward,” she writes. Lubber notes that the International Energy Agency projects that $16.5 trillion of investment will be needed during the next 15 years to reduce emissions enough to meet the Paris goal.

We Mean Business, formed in 2013, is a coalition of organizations that works to accelerate the transition by global businesses and investors to a low-carbon economy. We Mean Business advocates for government policies that strongly favor green business and that require transparency in reporting environmental progress. The goal is to establish a policy environment that motivates companies to innovate with, invest in and eventually scale up the use of clean energy.

RE100 looks to the future. Its name refers to its mission: 23 high-profile companies pledged to convert to 100 percent renewable energy, some in a mere six years. Among them are Ikea, Mars, Nestlé, Unilever and BT. Now, two years after RE100 formed, nearly 50 companies have joined, most recently Google.

“Old ways of doing business are over,” said Alejandro Agag, whose Formula E has taken off — as shown by this electric race car driver competing in the Monaco ePrix. (© AP Images)

The race to stop global warming

Companies are bound to be fiercely competitive. Now many are in a race to stop their own carbon emissions and curb global warming. Ikea invests $1.9 billion in on- and off-site power generation, including solar and wind. Some Ikea delivery trucks run on biofuels. One of its Russian facilities keeps the lights on with a biomass boiler. And to encourage electric-vehicle use, Ikea has installed charging points — some that can rapidly charge a vehicle to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes — at stores in their largest markets in 18 countries. Ikea Group chief sustainability officer Steve Howard said calling renewable energy “alternative” is a disservice — it’s “sensible, mainstream energy.”

Unilever has saved 1 million tons of carbon dioxide in its operations since 2008. Even better, it aims to generate 100 percent of its energy needs, plus more to share, from renewables by 2020.

Indian consulting and tech giant Infosys is rolling out solar in a big way, with a 2-megawatt installation already powering some of its facilities and an additional 50 megawatts planned for the future.

Google, for its part, will purchase 2 gigawatts (that’s 2 billion watts) of renewable power.

Since 2012, race car drivers have competed in electric cars. “The old ways of doing business are over,” Alejandro Agag, head of electric auto racing enterprise Formula E, told Climate TV. “Now, sustainability is basically the best way to do a good business, because … [it] makes sense financially.”