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Largest Firms Need To Double Pace Of CO2 Reductions To Avoid Dangerous Climate Change

August 25, 2009

Based on current reduction targets, the world’s largest companies are on track to reach the scientifically-recommended level of greenhouse gas cuts by 2089 ““ 39 years too late to avoid dangerous climate change, reveals a research report ““ The Carbon Chasm ““ released today by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

It shows that the Global 100 firms (92 of which participated in the study) are currently on track for an annual reduction of just 1.9% per annum which is below the 3.9% needed in order to cut emissions in developed economies by 80% in 2050. According to the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), developed economies must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050 in order to avoid dangerous climate change.

The research report ““ The Carbon Chasm ““ was conducted by the Carbon Disclosure Project, based on data reported to CDP in 2008*, and supported by BT, to analyse how the world’s largest 100 companies currently set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and whether they are sufficient to combat long term climate change.

Of those emissions reduction targets with a deadline, a majority (84%) are set up to and including 2012, which correlates with the final year of the Kyoto Protocol and suggests that businesses may be waiting to hear outcomes of the UN Conference of the Parties meeting in Copenhagen this December (COP-15) before they set longer term reduction goals.

BT’s Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Tuppen commented: “Most large companies now measure their carbon footprint and many have set carbon reduction targets. But how many of those targets are actually in line with the required reductions to prevent dangerous climate change? The research highlights a significant gap between what is needed from the corporate sector and what’s currently promised. We in the business world need to find a way of closing this carbon chasm.”

Paul Dickinson, CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Project, an independent not-for-profit organisation that holds the largest database of primary corporate climate change information in the world, said: “While 73% of Global 100 companies have set some form of reduction target, the majority need to be far more aggressive if they are to achieve the long-term reductions required. This is a time of huge opportunity for businesses to gain competitive advantage by reducing their own impact on the climate and benefit from associated cost savings, as well as sparking major innovation around the production of new, lower carbon products and services.”

Businesses cite various motivations for setting emissions reductions targets including identifying inefficiencies in corporate operations to achieve cost savings and stimulate innovation; minimising GHG associated risks whilst preparing for potential future regulation; and achieving competitive advantage. However, as motivations are largely driven by market forces rather than scientific recommendations, Global 100 targets often fail to deliver the required cuts.

The report highlights some recommendations to close the current carbon chasm:

  • Every company should set a CO2-e reduction target.
  • Targets must have clear baseline and target years.
  • Governments need to agree clear medium and long-term reduction goals in Copenhagen to provide a framework for business to set required targets.
  • Company targets should reflect the IPCC scientific recommendations and whilst absolute targets are preferred for clarity, aggressive intensity targets can also deliver.

The research also revealed a vast array of targets which presents challenges in assessing one against another. Greater harmonisation in setting targets in line with the science is required and this consistency will assist in revealing the leaders and the laggards in emissions reductions and ensure that major cuts are pursued in the short, medium and long term in order to permanently close the carbon chasm.

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