According to a report released last month by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the world’s largest companies need to double the pace of CO2 reduction to avoid dangerous climate change.   Based on current reduction targets, the world’s largest companies are on track to reach the scientifically-recommended level of greenhouse gas cuts by 2089.  This is  39 years too late to avoid dangerous climate change.

The research report, titled The Carbon Chasm, shows that the Global 100 are currently on track for an annual reduction of just 1.9% per annum which is below the 3.9% needed in order to cut emissions in developed economies by 80% in 2050. To see the list of the Global 100 companies, click here.  According to the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), developed economies must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050 in order to avoid dangerous climate change.

Researchers at the Carbon Disclosure Project conducted their analysis using data reported to CDP in 2008 to determine how the world’s largest 100 companies currently set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and whether they are sufficient to combat long term climate change. Of those emissions reduction targets with a deadline, a majority (84%) are set up to and including 2012, which correlates with the final year of the Kyoto Protocol.  This  suggests that businesses may be waiting to hear outcomes of the UN Conference of the Parties meeting in Copenhagen this December (COP-15) before they set longer term reduction goals.

“While 73% of Global 100 companies have set some form of reduction target, the majority need to be far more aggressive if they are to achieve the long-term reductions required,”‘said Paul Dickinson, CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Project. “This is a time of huge opportunity for businesses to gain competitive advantage by reducing their own impact on the climate and benefit from  associated cost savings, as well as sparking major innovation around the production of new, lower carbon products and services.”

“Businesses cite various motivations for setting emissions reductions targets including identifying inefficiencies in corporate operations to achieve cost savings and stimulate innovation; minimizing GHG associated risks whilst preparing for potential future regulation; and achieving competitive advantage,” he added.

However, as motivations are largely driven by market forces rather than scientific recommendations, Global 100 targets often fail to deliver the required cuts. The report highlights some recommendations to close the current carbon chasm:

• Every company should set a CO2-e reduction target.
• Targets must have clear baseline and target years.
• Governments need to agree clear medium and long-term reduction goals in Copenhagen to provide a framework for business to set required targets.
• Company targets should reflect the IPCC scientific recommendations and whilst absolute targets are preferred for clarity, aggressive intensity targets can also deliver.

The research also revealed a vast array of targets which presents challenges in assessing one against another. Greater harmonization in setting targets in line with the science is required, and this consistency will assist in revealing the leaders and the laggards in emissions reductions and ensure that major cuts are pursued in the short, medium and long term in order to permanently close the carbon chasm.

Download a copy of The Carbon Chasm

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© 2009, Tracey de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Tracey de Morsella (323 Articles)

Tracey de Morsella started her career working as an editor for US Technology Magazine. She used that experience to launch Delaware Valley Network, a publication for professionals in the Greater Philadelphia area. Years later, she used the contacts and resources she acquired to work in executive search specializing in technical and diversity recruitment. She has conducted recruitment training seminars for Wachovia Bank, the Department of Interior and the US Postal Service. During this time, she also created a diversity portal called The Multicultural Advantage and published the Diversity Recruitment Advertising Toolkit, a directory of recruiting resources for human resources professionals. Her career and recruitment articles have appeared in numerous publications and web portals including Woman Engineer Magazine, Monster.com, About.com Job Search Channel, Workplace Diversity Magazine, Society for Human Resource Management web site, NSBE Engineering Magazine, HR.com, and Human Resource Consultants Association Newsletter. Her work with technology professionals drew her to pursuing training and work in web development, which led to a stint at Merrill Lynch as an Intranet Manager. In March, she decided to combine her technical and career management expertise with her passion for the environment, and with her husband, launched The Green Economy Post, a blog providing green career information and covering the impact of the environment, sustainable building, cleantech and renewable energy on the US economy. Her sustainability articles have appeared on Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Chem.Info,FastCompany and CleanTechies.