Most major companies failing climate targets: Study

Just under a quarter of the world's large listed companies have taken action to limit global warming to 1.5 deg C.
Just under a quarter of the world's large listed companies have taken action to limit global warming to 1.5 deg C.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (AFP) - Fewer than one in four of the world's largest companies are on track to meet basic climate change targets, according to a new study published on Thursday (April 22).

Findings of the survey of nearly 700 listed firms in 14 countries from 2015 to 2019 were unveiled on the day US President Joe Biden launches a virtual climate summit.

According to British investment firm Arabesque, just under a quarter (24.84 per cent) of the world's large listed companies have taken action to limit global warming to 1.5 deg C.

European companies are the best performers, particularly in Sweden (50 per cent), Germany (39.29 per cent) and Finland (33.33 per cent).

France is just behind (32.5 per cent), followed by Britain and the United States (both on 23.08 per cent). China (8.51 per cent) and Australia (4.55 per cent) trail behind.

But the study found that 15 per cent of the companies listed on leading indices, including the FTSE 100, S&P 100, DAX and Nikkei, do not publish their greenhouse gas emissions.

The proportion even increases to 29 per cent for the Chinese Hang Seng.

The 2015 Paris Agreement seeks to limit global warming at 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels, and if possible, no more than 1.5 deg C.

The 1.5 deg C target is proving difficult to achieve but 70 per cent of firms are expected to meet the 2 deg C figure by 2030.

"Declarations of good intention by themselves are not going to lead to the required timely actions," said Arabesque chairman Georg Kell.

"In fact, despite the growing number of commitments, average carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased since 2015.

"This year is a potential turning point, offering corporate leaders a chance to think big and to act accordingly. But time is running out."

Mr Biden has invited 40 world leaders to a virtual Earth Day summit, including China's President Xi Jinping and his counterpart, Mr Vladimir Putin of Russia.

European lawmakers in Brussels on Wednesday reached a last-minute agreement with members states on a net reduction of "at least 55 per cent" of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday vowed an ambitious 78 per cent cut to carbon emissions by 2035 compared with 1990 levels - 15 years earlier than once planned.

London's environmental efforts are under particular scrutiny given that it hosts the next UN climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.