Sustainability round-up: More action needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions

With the latest round of United Nations climate change talks –  the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) – taking place in Bonn, Germany 6-12 November two reports showed that despite the breakthrough achieved in Paris in 2015 more drastic action is still needed to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and stall the rise in global temperatures.

Analysis of the world’s 250 largest publicly listed GHG emitters by Thomson Reuters has found that currently, their emission trends are flat (on average and adjusted for revenues) when they should have been going down by roughly 3% per year to stay under 2 degrees Celsius of global warming.

greenhouse gas emissions

Global 250 need to do more to cut GHG emissions

Thomson Reuters said that the Global 250 which account for approximately one-third of global annual GHG emissions, consists of a diverse and interconnected group of publicly traded businesses in the oil, gas, utility, automotive, aircraft, manufacturing, steel, mining and cement sectors. Unless there are continual reductions in emissions from this group of companies, effectively mitigating the long-term risks of climate change is not possible Thomson Reuters said.

The report stated that each year’s delay in reduction necessitated a steeper reduction curve in the future, likely increasing the cost and complexity of the required transformations, and decreasing the probability of meeting targets required for limiting disruptive climate events.

The research found that roughly 20% of the G250 have strategies in place to drive business transformations necessary to reduce their climate impacts and a meaningful number of that 20% are demonstrating that their transformation strategies create real business value through cost structure improvements and new revenue growth opportunities, as well as risk mitigation.

Thomson Reuters identified Total, Ingersoll Rand, Toyota, Iberdrola and Xcel Energy as among the firms that adopted strategies to diversify and decarbonize their business models a decade or more ago. The report said they provided a pathway to a profitable low-carbon future that stretches to 2050 and beyond.

The UN has also published its eighth Emissions Gap Report which focused on the “gap” between the emissions reductions necessary to achieve the agreed targets at the lowest cost and the likely emissions reductions from full implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which formed the foundation of the Paris Agreement. The UN said that if the current emissions gap
is not closed by 2030, it is extremely unlikely that the goal of holding global warming to well below 2°C can still be reached.  Even if the current NDCs are fully implemented, the carbon budget for limiting global warming to below 2°C would be about 80 percent depleted by 2030.

 EP Association agrees to update the Equator Principles following pressure from campaigners

The Equator Principles, a risk management framework, adopted by financial institutions, for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in projects, is to be updated following campaigning by groups that argued that banks needed to do more to ensure projects they financed did not damage indigenous rights or contribute to climate change.

The EP Association agreed to the revision at its annual meeting last month in Brazil. Reporting on the meeting the Association said the update was in line with its commitment to “reflect ongoing learning and emerging good practice.”  The aim of the process, the EP Association said would be on a targeted update to the EPs focusing on EP4 that would the key issues of scope of applicability, human rights (inclusive of the rights of Indigenous Peoples), and climate change, amongst others.

The global “Equator Banks, Act!” petition called on the 91 Equator banks to replace the current Principles with a new set of commitments that acknowledged the responsibility of banks to act decisively on preventing accelerating climate change and to fully respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights and territories when financing projects. BankTrack, the international tracking, campaigning and support organisation focused on banks and the activities they finance, said the petition received the support of 246 organisations and well over 110,000 individuals.

Additionally, the group had written to the 91 Equator Principles signatory banks warning that in light of these public expectations, inaction at the meeting “cannot be an option”, as it would deal a fatal blow to the reputation of the Principles as the bank platform for innovation in sustainability risk management.

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