'Critical mass' of polluters setting carbon targets




  • In Science
  • 2022-05-11 23:01:15Z
  • By BBC
Chimneys emitting carbon dioxide
Chimneys emitting carbon dioxide  

The number of big polluters setting targets to cut CO2 emissions has reached a "critical mass", a UN-backed report has said.

But firms in Asia, Africa and Latin America are lagging behind Europe, the US and Japan, the Science-Based Targets Initiative said.

Separately, a report cast doubt on whether oil companies can all deliver carbon cuts they've promised.

Big oil firms are relying on unproven technologies, a think tank said.

'Critical mass'

The Science-Based Targets Initiative advises firms on how to set emissions reduction targets in line with climate science.

It says targets have now been adopted by more than 2,000 firms worth $38tn across 70 countries in 15 industries.

The authors say that in the most polluting sectors a critical mass of firms (27%) has joined the initiative.

They believe this could prove a tipping point, as the polluting giants influence actions across the whole supply chain.

More than half the companies setting targets are in the G7 rich nations, but there are also participants from China, India, Brazil, South Korea and South Africa.

Canada and Italy are lagging behind, the report says. And Africa and Asia need more participants.

The document says:

  • Around 80% of the targets approved by the firms in 2021 were aligned with the benchmark of holding global temperature rises to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial times.

  • Between 2015-2020, the majority of companies with 1.5°C targets cut emissions twice as fast as required.

'Unproven technology'

A separate report today urged caution over oil companies' targets.

The think tank Carbon Tracker said that oil and gas firms are basing their emissions goals on either selling polluting assets or on unproven or controversial technologies.

These include carbon capture and storage (CCS) - or carbon offsetting which can include trees being planted to compensate for industrial emissions.

Carbon Tracker says investors should ask whether companies' targets are not just ambitious but also credible.

The author, Mike Coffin, said: "Emissions mitigation technologies pose a huge risk to investors and the climate because most, such as CCS, are at an early stage of development, and solutions involving tree-planting require vast areas of land.

"Costs will be enormous and it is not clear whether they will be technically feasible or economically viable."

The report ranks oil and gas firms. It says:

  • Eni has the strongest policy, pledging a 35% cut in emissions by 2030 from the production and use of its products. But its plans involve CCS and nature-based solutions such as tree planting.

  • BP ranks fourth but its position is expected to improve once it formally ends its Rosneft gas shareholding. It says CCS will be a "lever" for emissions reductions.

  • Shell ranks fifth, pledging only to reduce the carbon intensity of its operations and the products it sells.

  • Nine North American companies all have weaker policies than Europeans and only commit to reducing emissions intensity - that's a measure of carbon emissions per dollar earned.

  • ExxonMobil has the weakest policy, the report says. It adopted a net zero target last year but has not said how it will get there.

However, the oil giant said that it "has long acknowledged the reality and risks of climate change, and it has devoted significant resources to addressing those risks".

"We have announced our ambition to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions for operated assets by 2050. As part of that, we are developing detailed emission-reduction roadmaps for major facilities and assets," it said.

A Met Office report this week said new global record temperatures are expected again in the next few years.

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