McDonalds, owned by US food giant Mondelez International, is facing intense criticism after it announced it was joining forces with the United Nations Climate Change Agency (UNCC) and US environmental group 350.org in a bid to tackle climate change.
The multinationals plans to set up an “independent research and support agency” in 2020 and will contribute its annual revenue of $1.2 billion to the global effort to combat climate change, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The move comes as a key US Senate Republican has voiced concern about McDonalds decision to join the effort, which could undermine President Donald Trump’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the United States’ leadership role in the global fight against the problem.
“It’s an important step for the companies to participate, but it is also critical that they keep the US out of this agreement,” Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, told CNN’s “State of the Union”.
McDonalds is the world’s largest fast food chain, which employs more than 14 million people worldwide.
The announcement follows a decision by the US government to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and impose new restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
The company said the new initiative would focus on research and development in energy and climate change solutions.
“We’re not going to be able to compete with McDonalds’ business model,” McDonalds US chief executive and chairman and CEO Steve Easterbrook said in a statement.
“We’ll have to look at how we can contribute to the UNCC’s work.”
The US will also be able impose a new $2.5bn price on greenhouse gases from 2020, he said.
“In addition to the $2 billion in research and $2bn in research support that we’ll be able offer in 2020, we will also provide $500 million over the next three years to support the UNSCOD, the UN Climate Change and Development Department,” he added.
“By participating in this initiative, we are strengthening our international position and ensuring our global leadership in combating climate change.”
The announcement comes as McDonalds plans for a “big” expansion in the United Kingdom, where the company’s first UK outlet opened in June.
McDonald’s is aiming to open another 20 stores in the UK by 2020, as part of its plans to double its US footprint by 2022.
The UK is the third-largest economy in the world, and the fourth-largest by population, and has the third largest greenhouse gas emission of any country.
The US has been a global leader in addressing climate change in recent years, with the Obama administration announcing last year that the United State would cut greenhouse gas output from its electricity sector by 26 per cent by 2025.
However, the country’s commitment has come under criticism after a report from the US Department of Energy’s National Center for Atmospheric Research said in March that the US could not cut greenhouse gases even if it implemented all the Obama-era climate policies outlined in the Paris accord.
McDonald, which has a presence in more than 100 countries, said the US would work with the UN to develop strategies to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency.
“I can assure you that we are committed to ensuring the United United States is a leading global leader when it comes to tackling climate change,” McDonald’s said in the statement.
“Our commitment to combating climate impacts and reducing the damage that they are causing will be reflected in our decisions and actions.
This will include investing in clean energy, including solar, wind, hydro and other renewable energy sources.”
The United States will also continue to take aggressive steps to protect our climate, such as making climate-friendly energy choices and transitioning to a low-carbon economy by 2030.
“As a leader in climate change mitigation, we’re working closely with the US Government, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the World Wildlife Fund on our global climate change strategy and working towards a global plan to reduce greenhouse gases by 2020.”