The largest investor initiative tackling climate change says after two years of talking to the most polluting companies, data show most haven’t aligned their businesses with the Paris accord and that its members need to ramp up pressure.
The group, which oversees $35 trillion and is known as the Climate Action 100+, says only 9% of the most polluting companies are aligned with 2 degree Celsius warming targets. The group hopes its members can push corporate boards to change and work toward cutting their net emissions to zero by 2050, a request that will drastically alter life for many of the world’s biggest companies.
Climate Action 100+ has already pushed some companies, including oil majors Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc, to act more aggressively in cutting carbon emissions as the world seeks to reduce the risks of climate change. While those were key victories for the group, they’re now indicating it was only the opening salvo of a bigger battle.
“Investor engagement through Climate Action 100+ is playing a major role in changing corporate attitudes on climate change,” said Stephanie Pfeifer, the vice chair of the initiative, in a statement. “We must now build on the momentum achieved to date if we are to succeed in addressing the climate crisis.”
The global investor group formed in 2017, aimed at identifying the largest corporate emitters and then using members’ ability to talk to directors and managers, file shareholder resolutions and vote at annual general meetings to nudge companies toward acting on climate change. Some of its 373 members have persuaded the hard-nosed miner Glencore Plc to cap its thermal coal output and gotten shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk A/S to commit to carbon neutrality by 2050, among other accomplishments.
Still, Climate Action 100+ said in a report there are “crucial” weaknesses in the corporate approach to the issue of climate change that need to be addressed. In addition to the large number of companies which would push the world toward warming more than 2 degrees Celsius with their current business strategies, companies are also probably lobbying governments in ways that prevent helpful climate policies.
Climate Action 100+ said only 8% of the overall 161 companies it targets do enough to ensure their lobbying activities align “with necessary action on climate change.” Its members will make preventing “obstructive, negative or evasive lobbying” a cornerstone of its pressure campaign on corporations going forward, according to a statement.
Companies are under no obligation to follow the advice of the organization, but brushing off such a large shareholder group risks embarrassing public disputes. Bruce Duguid, head of stewardship at Climate Action 100+ member Hermes EOS, said earlier this year he had spoken to BP’s board and managers over four years about better matching its strategy with the Paris goals. After growing frustrated with the pace of the discussion, Duguid filed a shareholder resolution asking the company to disclose how each capital investment decision is aligned with the global climate agreement.
That decision pushed BP to agree to disclose more, and it put its weight behind supporting the resolution. Still, during its annual general meeting, representatives from some of its biggest shareholders which comprise Climate Action 100+ members, such as Legal & General Investment Management Holdings Ltd. and Aviva Plc, publicly scolded the company for moving slowly. The resolution was passed almost unanimously.
Climate Action 100+ doesn’t just target the oil and gas sector. It looks at anyone highly influential to global emissions, which include companies in the automotive sector, utilities and consumer products business. The data from the progress reports indicates no industry stands out as particularly strong on climate change, with each falling significantly short of what the group says needs to happen to prevent potentially catastrophic warming.
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