LONDON: The world's biggest carbon-emitting companies are far from aligning with the Paris Climate Agreement, a report by the leading climate-focused investor group showed on Monday (Mar 22).
Climate Action 100+, whose 575 members manage US$54 trillion in assets, was set up in 2017 to engage with the companies responsible for the bulk of planet-heating emissions to encourage them to cut them and strengthen climate disclosures.
If added together and treated as a country, the companies - including oil majors like Exxon, Saudi Aramco and BP as well as Unilever - would be the third biggest emitter behind the United States and China, the group said.
Releasing its first 'Climate Action 100+ Net-Zero Company Benchmark', the group uses a traffic-light system to show how each of the 159 companies is currently performing on a variety of indicators and metrics.
None of the companies have fully disclosed how they will achieve their goals to become a net zero business by 2050 or sooner, the assessment shows, including setting short- and medium-term targets.
Irked by the slow pace of change at some companies, leading investors have thrown their weight behind shareholder resolutions in the current season for annual general meetings demanding better information on company plans.
"The Climate Action 100+ Net Zero Company Benchmark shows there is an urgent need for greater corporate action and higher ambition in accelerating the net zero economy and ensuring a safe and viable future," said Mindy Lubber, president of CA100+ who also runs sustainability organisation Ceres.
Although 83 of the companies assessed have announced an aim of achieving net-zero by 2050, around half of these commitments do not encompass the full scope of their emissions.
While 107 companies had set medium-term targets, only 20 met all the assessment criteria; of the 75 to set short-term targets, only eight did so.
Only six companies had committed to aligning their capital expenditure with their long-term reduction targets, and none have so far pledged to align them with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
When scenario planning for the risks and opportunities posed by climate change, just 10 per cent of the companies include the 1.5 degrees scenario across the whole of their operations.
Although 139 companies consider climate change at board level, only a third of those assessed explicitly link executive pay to their targets for reducing emissions.
The assessment, based on companies' public disclosures and any additional information they provided before Jan 22, will form the base line for future engagement with them, CA100+ said.
"This is a vitally important piece of work. We will be using it not only to inform our engagement but also our proxy voting, because for us, ultimately, we have to be able to hold boards accountable," said Anne Simpson, managing investment director of board governance and sustainability at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).