Deere & Co. leaders say they've made progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions -- including at John Deere Dubuque Works -- but a stockholder request to reach a "net-zero" emission status by 2030 is "neither reasonable nor feasible."
At the Deere & Co. annual meeting Feb. 24, shareholders will weigh in on a proposal asking the company's board of directors to "generate a feasible plan for the company to reach a net-zero greenhouse gas emission status by the year 2030." But Deere & Co. officials are resisting the proposal.
Ken Golden, director of global public relations at Deere & Co., wrote in an email to TH Media that "this is the first stockholder proposal seeking a reduction in GHG emissions."
In the proposal, stockholders state "net-zero greenhouse gas emissions" can be achieved by setting an annual target for emissions and offsetting remaining emissions by "negative emissions strategies" that could include tree-planting or other technological solutions.
Don Bain, a senior fellow at the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute in Washington, D.C., said companies across the United States recently have ramped up efforts to reduce their carbon footprints.
"In the last 10 years, you have seen a growing number of companies making reductions in GHG emissions and pledges to make further reductions," he said. "Only a few have made pledges to go to net-zero, but it is definitely something that is gaining momentum."
In a notice of the 2016 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, Deere's board of directors recommended shareholders vote against the measure. In a statement to TH Media, Golden reiterated this stance.
"Deere will continue to aggressively pursue energy efficiency, but our position is that a goal of achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2030 is neither reasonable nor feasible," Golden wrote.
According to the company's response, there is no adequate net-zero replacement for natural gas and other fuels needed for manufacturing. Plus, there is "no known adequate electric storage technology to make the electric grid 100 percent renewable or carbon free," company officials wrote in the response.
Overcoming these obstacles would result in "prohibitive costs to the company and (would) be detrimental to the reliability of Deere's production."
The company's opposition statement notes that Deere's energy-conservation programs have reduced worldwide GHG emissions by 63 percent per ton of production between 1972 and 2006.
Company officials also said the construction and forestry factory in Dubuque has reduced total energy use by 33 percent and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 42 percent since switching from coal to natural gas as a fuel source.
Deere shareholders Jan. 19 offered a rebuttal to the company's opposition statement.
In the rebuttal, prepared by Boston-based Jantz Management LLC, shareholders argued that industrial firm Siemens recently committed to achieving a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030. The rebuttal also notes that targets laid out in Paris during a climate conference in December require a more aggressive approach.
"At least one major industrial firm has already taken on this goal, and we believe that Deere has the leadership and resources to create an effective and sustainable plan," shareholders wrote in the rebuttal.
Jantz Management officials did not return calls placed by TH Media.
Bain said most of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by man are the result of burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, gasoline and natural gas. The most common greenhouse gas created by burning fossil fuels is carbon dioxide.
Overall, 43 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 have set targets in GHG reduction commitments, energy efficiency, or renewable energy, Bain said.