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A new study has found that just 50 corporations are responsible for 73% of the 3.6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emitted by the world’s 500 largest companies. Of the carbon-polluting corporations the most egregious offenders are, perhaps unsurprisingly, to be found within the energy sector, and as a whole, these companies are doing little to change their ways; the CDP Global 500 Climate Change Report 2013 found that the 50 giants have become even greater polluters in the last four years.
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The CDP Global 500 Climate Change Report is published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, and calculates and analyzes the emissions and disclosures of the Global 500 companies by industry (403 of the companies took part in this year’s study). A number of the findings are largely unsurprising: Wal Mart is the greatest offender within the ‘Consumer Staples’ category and ExxonMobil in the Energy sector. Interestingly, Bank of America has the greatest emissions per unit of revenue in the Financial sector, Bayer in Healthcare, Samsung in Information Technology and Verizon in Telecommunications.
While GHG emissions from the Global 500 fell overall in recent years—from 4.2 to 3.6 billion metric tons—the top 50 corporations have managed to increase their emissions by 1.65% since 2009. This represents, the report states “a disparity between the companies’ strategies, targets and the emissions reductions that are required to limit global warming to 2 degrees C.”
And energy companies are in many regards the worst offenders. As Think Progress highlights, these companies are doing the least to change their habits, and have the highest overall emissions of any business sector—responsible for 28.3% of total reported Global 500 scope 1 and 2 emissions. The report notes that efforts to reduce emissions in the energy sector are essential to the global mitigation of climate change.
However “50% of energy companies have a performance band of C or lower. Since 2009, the overall emissions of the ten biggest emitters in the [energy] sector have increased by 53%. The sector also has the highest number of companies without emission reduction targets (24%), which companies justify by concerns that targets would constrain growth in their companies and in the wider economy.”
So when looking for companies to reduce their emissions, what works? According to the report, it’s all about risk and money (again, perhaps not so surprising). Risk forms a far greater incentive than opportunity for these corporate giants—in the form of reputation, taxes, regulation. Money clearly works, with “87% of companies that provide monetary incentives to the board, executive team or all employees report[ing] emissions reductions in the past year.”