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Most CO2 Emissions Are Coming From World’s Biggest Companies. What to do?

Exxon Mobil, Gazprom and Coal India release more CO2 than any other companies while also factoring in consumers who use their fuels, according to a Thompson Reuters Financial & Risk white paper. It also said that over the last three years, emissions from the top 250 emitters have been flat, although to fulfill the terms of the Paris agreement, they need to fall by 3% a year.

The Paris agreement, which involves nearly 200 nations, aims to keep global temperatures from rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius by mid century. The key way of doing so is to move away from fossil fuels and toward more sustainable energy forms. To that end, the corporate community is on board, emphasizing that they are meeting the demands of their customers.

“Without continual reduction in emissions from this group of companies, effectively mitigating the long-term risks of climate change is not possible,” the study said, as reported in Reuters

The story adds that the report is a collaborative effort with Constellation Research & Technology as well as BSD Consulting, which collectively they found that those 250 companies are responsible for a third of all CO2 emissions. Yet, only 30% of those businesses had “strong goals” to curb them.

The United States under President Donald Trump plans to withdraw from the voluntary Paris agreement, although the soonest this country can do so is 2020; countries that pull out must give three years advanced notice. However, the business sector is stepping up in its place.

Companies such as Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Calpine Corp., Exelon Corp., General Electric, PG&E Corp., Royal Dutch Shell and Tesla are among those voicing support for the participation in global climate change talks.

Also, Alcoa, American Express, Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Best Buy, BioGen, Cargill, CA Technologies and Coca Cola have all signed pledges to reduce their carbon footprints. As have WalMart, Target and CostCo. As for Coke, it says that it will cut the carbon footprint per drink by a quarter by 2020.

The Thompson Reuters white paper specifically notes Xcel Energy, Ingersoll Rand and Total for their efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. Total, for example, is divesting of coal holdings while investing more in solar energy. Xcel Energy, meantime, is a leading utility when it comes to generating wind and solar energy. 

Failing to take action or to comply with clean air laws, conversely, can result in negative actions. A story appearing in Environmental Leader yesterday notes that Exxon and PDC Energy will each pay $2.5 million for violating provisions of the Clean Air Act. While peanuts to them, it is not the message they want to send to the market.

As for Exxon, it is alleged to have improperly monitored industrial flares at petrochemical plants in Louisiana and Texas and it will also pay $300 million to install new pollution control equipment. PDC, meanwhile, is alleged to have violated emissions standards tied to volatile organic compounds from oil and gas operations. It will spend $20 million to upgrade its operations.

Both companies deny the allegations.

To that end, a story appearing in Edie.net says that the world’s 50 most influential companies as it relates to climate are lobbying against “ambitious” carbon reduction goals or legislation. The website cites a research from a UK think tank. To be clear, lobbying against more stringent rules does not imply that the companies are doing nothing — just not as much as what some aspire to achieve.

However, shareholders are also applying pressure. Take Exxon: its stockholders are demanding it increase its transparency and reduce its CO2 releases. It’s a non-binding proposal that Exxon’s management said it would abide by, although at this early stages has not said how it would do so.

The proposal is asking Exxon to gives its shareholders full insight into the financial and technological risks it faces as a result of a world that is trending toward lower CO2 emissions and specifically one that wants to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius by mid Century.

Companies may not be as aggressive as some would like. But there is increasing pressure on them to curb their CO2 emissions — whether that be from regulators, shareholders or customers. As to whether that is enough to meet the goals of the Paris agreement is still an unknown.

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