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World’s Biggest CO2 Polluters Failing to Meet Climate Goals

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Flaring at the Fife Ethylene Plant in Mossmorran, Fife on April 23, 2019. ExxonMobil and Shell UK jointly operate the complex. Jane Barlow / PA Images via Getty Images

The world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are far short of meeting their climate goals, new research says. The research paints a bleak picture, no matter how you look at it.


Only one in eight of the world's most-polluting companies are on track to meet their climate goals under the Paris agreement, as Reuters reported. The researchers found that only 20 of the 160 most-polluting companies have made strides to reduce their emissions to a level necessary to keep global temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Another part of the research looked into 274 of the world's highest emitting publicly listed companies and found that almost half of the world's largest companies do not even consider future risks from the global climate crisis in their operational decision-making. Almost 25 percent of the publicly listed companies that are the world's biggest-polluters do not report their greenhouse gas emissions despite regulators and central banks in many countries asking for greater disclosure of climate risks, according to The Guardian.

Researchers at the Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics carried out the study, which was funded by the Transition Pathway Initiative, a group of investors who manage about $14 trillion and are supportive of the Paris agreement. The researchers analyzed the financial disclosures of companies in key sectors including oil and gas, steel and aluminum, utilities, car manufacturing and air transport, according to The Guardian. The firms examined in the study account for more than 40 percent of emissions from public companies around the world.

"It's over three years since the Paris agreement was signed, and this research shows the corporate sector is improving its climate planning and performance, but not fast enough," said Simon Dietz, co-director of the Grantham Institute, The Guardian reported. "Cutting through the noise, we can see that barely 12% of companies plan to reduce emissions at the rate required to keep global warming below 2C."

The findings highlight the distance between the private sector's handling of the climate crisis and the transformation that scientists say is needed to stop the climate crisis from wrecking the planet, according to Reuters.

"The clock is ticking on irreversible climate change," said Adam Matthews, co-chair of the Transition Pathway Initiative and the director of ethics and engagement at the Church of England Pensions Board, in a statement, as Reuters reported. "Investors need to adopt an emergency footing otherwise the window to secure the change we need will be gone."

This study follows an open letter from investors managing more than $34 trillion in assets, nearly half the world's invested capital, to G20 governments last month stressing the urgent need to tackle global warming. Some investors have already divested from fossil fuels.

"This research shows clear leaders and laggards emerging within sectors from airlines to aluminum, and that gives investors an investment-relevant decision to make today," said Faith Ward, co-chair of the Transition Pathway Initiative, as The Guardian reported. "As the effects of climate change accelerate, we can expect to see more capital flow away from those companies that bury their head in the sand, and towards those companies aligning with a 2C pathway."

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Retired Lt. Cmdr. Oliver Leighton Barrett is with the Center for Climate and Security. He says that in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, crime and poor economic conditions have long led to instability.

"And when you combine that with protracted drought," he says, "it's just a stressor that makes everything worse."

Barrett says that with crops failing, many people have fled their homes.

"These folks are leaving not because they're opportunists," he says, "but because they are in survival mode. You have people that are legitimate refugees."

So Barrett supports allocating foreign aid to programs that help people in drought-ridden areas adapt to climate change.

"There are nonprofits that are operating in those countries that have great ideas in terms of teaching farmers to use the land better, to harvest water better, to use different variety of crops that are more resilient to drought conditions," he says. "Those are the kinds of programs I think are needed."

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Reporting credit: Deborah Jian Lee / ChavoBart Digital Media.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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