Top British firms drag their feet to reduce carbon footprints

7/1/2010 GuardianCarbon Disclosure Project reports that a handful of firms in energy and utilities sectors account for the bulk of emissions from FTSE 100 firms.Greenhouse gas targets set by many of Britain’s largest companies are too weak to meet UK commitments on climate change, a new analysis shows. A report from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) says a lack of ambition from companies in the energy, materials and utilities sector threatens government plans to cut emissions by 2020. The CDP report found that 77% of FTSE 100 companies said they have a target to reduce emissions, with an average annual reduction rate of 2.5%.

That compares well with the 2.4% annual reductions on overall emissions that Britain needs to make to achieve a legally binding target of 34%-42% reductions by 2020, relative to 1990 levels.
However, the average annual emissions reductions planned by the firms in the energy, utilities and materials sectors total 1.2%. There are only 24 of these companies in the FTSE 100, but they account for 87% of all FTSE 100 reported emissions.Joanna Lee, CDP’s director of communications and corporate partnerships, said: “Across the board, companies are doing pretty well. But what’s most striking is that if you look at the three most heavily polluting sectors, they are lagging significantly behind. If we are going to deliver on climate change targets these companies need to take more aggressive action.”

The report, published today, says there is a “carbon chasm” between what is planned by the firms and what is required.It says: “The targets set by the most carbon intensive sectors, responsible for the majority of FTSE 100 emissions, are not sufficiently ambitious and will not deliver reductions required by the UK climate change act.”It adds: “Clearly, UK regulation is sending strong signals to companies of the necessity to manage carbon, but as many of these companies operate globally, we also need a strong global framework to create the right incentives to set sufficiently strong targets.”
The report is based on voluntary targets set by firms during 2009, before the climate conference in Copenhagen in December failed to establish a new global treaty. Analysts say the lack of such a treaty could make companies more reluctant to take on more rigorous targets.

“These carbon intensive sectors will need to take on more aggresive targets if they are to deliver in line with government commitments,” the report says.The CDP analysis showed that almost a third of company targets were based on reductions in carbon intensity, rather than absolute cuts in greenhouse gas pollution. Cuts in carbon intensity allow firms to increase overall emissions, while appearing to have gone green, the report points out.”Companies should set company-wide targets for the reduction of their absolute level of emissions,” it says. “Climate change can only be mitigated by a reduction in absolute emissions… therefore companies setting intensity targets should complement these with absolute targets.”

Go to: