A changing climate is becoming more evident. This year has brought intense Atlantic hurricanes, severe wild fires in California, an exceptional monsoon across South Asia, a stifling heatwave across Europe, and record-low wintertime sea ice in the Arctic. These changes threaten ecosystems, communities and our economic well-being, with significant assets at risk from climate change.
This evidence is not going unnoticed. Public concern is growing; and policy makers and regulators are responding. The Chinese government, for example, is set to launch a national carbon emissions trading scheme by the end of this year. Companies around the world, from all sectors, have begun transitioning their business models away from a dependence on fossil fuels and towards the low-carbon economy of the future.
In this year’s CDP analysis, which is based on the climate data disclosed to us by over 1,000 of the world’s largest, highest-emitting companies, we reveal that a growing number are setting longer-term emissions reduction targets, planning for low-carbon into their business models out to 2030 and beyond. The number of companies in our sample that have committed to set emissions reduction targets in line with or well below a 2 degrees Celsius pathway, via the Science Based Targets initiative, has increased from 94 to 151 in the space of a year. Continuing this momentum, an additional 317 companies plan to commit to a science-based target within two years. EDP and Unilever are two of those companies sharing their story of how and why they decided to set a science-based target in our analysis. Aligned to these targets, the significant increase in companies from our sample that are setting targets to consume renewable energy including through the RE100 initiative, or produce their own, shows how companies are embracing the cheaper, more secure supply of clean energy to meet their low-carbon goals.
The transition to a low-carbon economy will create winners and losers within and across sectors. As new businesses and technologies emerge and scale up, billions of dollars of value are waiting to be unlocked, even as many more are at risk.Paul Simpson, CEO, CDP
Regulators have begun to respond to the risks, notably with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. Established by the Financial Stability Board, the Task Force has moved the climate disclosure agenda forward by emphasizing the link between climate risk and financial stability. The Task Force has recommended that both companies and investors disclose climate change information, including conducting scenario analysis in line with a 2 degrees Celsius pathway and setting out the impacts on their strategy of those scenarios. This amplifies the longstanding call from CDP’s investor signatories for companies to disclose comprehensive, comparable environmental data in their mainstream reports, driving climate risk management further into the boardroom.
This year, more than 6,300 companies, accounting for around 55% of the total value of global listed equity markets, have disclosed information on climate change, water and deforestation through our reporting platform. This request from CDP was made on behalf of more than 800 investors with assets of US$100 trillion.
To meet the growing needs of these investors, we are evolving our disclosure platform to introduce sector-based reporting and align our information request with the recommendations of the Task Force for 2018. This will help to further illuminate to company boards and their shareholders the risks and opportunities presented by the low-carbon transition, so they can act swiftly to shift their business models accordingly.
The environmental disclosures that leading companies are making through CDP are providing data across capital markets to inform better decisions and drive action. Companies are reporting how science-based carbon emission reduction targets can drive business and sustainability improvements. They are showing how renewable energy purchases are helping companies to cut emissions and how setting an internal carbon price can drive efficiency and shift investment decisions. They are revealing how their products and services directly enable third parties to avoid greenhouse gas emissions. They are collaborating with cities, states, regions and other companies to drive positive impact in their own operations and through value chains.
This report tracks the progress of corporate action on climate change. Last year, in the wake of the Paris Agreement, we established a baseline for corporate climate action. This year, we measure progress to date. As we show, there are some encouraging trends emerging, with more companies setting further reaching carbon emissions reduction targets, and greater accountability for climate change issues within the boardroom. But, there is no doubt that more companies need to act quickly and the pace of change needs to accelerate if we are to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and ensure long term financial and climate stability.
Disclosure of quality data is crucial to support this progress. It leads to smarter decisions and informs companies and governments of the actions they need to take. It’s encouraging to see more companies setting longer-term targets; data will be key to seeing how they are performing against these over time.
Make no mistake: we are at a tipping point in the low-carbon transition. There are enormous opportunities to be had for the companies that are positioning themselves at the leading edge of this tipping point; and enormous risks for those that haven’t yet taken action.