The richest countries make the most noise about trying to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. As they prepare for the next global climate conference, it’s clear they are coming up short on setting targets to achieve that.
And Canada is faring the worst in the club by one important measure: disclosure by companies of their targets for reducing greenhouse emissions.
The Group of Seven countries are headed to Egypt in November for COP27, the 27th United Nations climate conference. They will be armed with a host of policies aimed at limiting the world’s average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels by 2050. This is the goal of the Paris Agreement.
The problem, according to a new analysis led by CDP, a non-profit that runs a worldwide system companies and governments can use to disclose their environmental impacts, is that greenhouse-gas reduction targets reported by the private sector in the G7 today put the planet on pace for a 2.7-degree increase, well short of what’s needed to meet the Paris target.
“It’s obviously not ambitious enough. While this is happening, and COP27 is coming around the corner, the ambition needs to be accelerated in some way,” said Pratima Divgi, head of capital markets at CDP, which was formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project.
The need for bolder action is a worry at the highest levels of government. At the climate summit, the European Union plans to push major industrialized economies to toughen their targets, Reuters reported last week, quoting a draft document.
The CDP research arrives at a fraught time. War, energy shortages and inflation present immediate crises that threaten to overshadow the battle to limit global warming. Europe is being hit particularly hard.
But European companies have been leading the way in disclosing emission-reduction targets. Germany and Italy are at the front of the pack, with goals that pass muster with the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a group that works to define the amount of greenhouse-gas reductions necessary to meet the Paris goal.
More than three-quarters of Germany’s corporate emissions, including so-called “Scope 3″ emissions – which emanate from supply chains and consumer use of products rather than from the companies themselves – are subject to these gold-standard targets. And 58 per cent of Italian corporate emissions are as well.
Still, CDP found that even those countries’ private-sector targets point to 2.2 degrees warming by 2050, when the results are aggregated at the country level. This makes clear the need for even loftier plans – and the will to carry them out.
Canada is at the back of the pack, behind the United States, with corporate disclosure among 297 companies suggesting an increase of 3.1 degrees, according to CDP’s country-level numbers. Just 9 per cent of corporate emissions are covered by publicly announced targets, and only 4 per cent by targets that meet SBTi standards.
The CDP analysis was co-produced by management consultancy Oliver Wyman, and is the result of a survey of 11,345 publicly listed corporations and private companies that supply multinationals.
Most of the Canadian companies that responded to CDP are in the materials and fossil fuel sectors, a reflection of an economy that is heavy in resource extraction and processing, Ms. Divgi said. “It’s quite likely that the companies by themselves are not at a stage yet where they are setting targets,” she said.
That could mean Canada’s numbers will improve in the coming years, as companies finalize baseline data before setting their goals, and as Canadian climate regulation is tightened. Globally, the newly created International Sustainability Standards Board stands to beef up disclosure, and targets, everywhere.
The battle to limit average global temperature gain is serious business. According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, exceeding the Paris target by just half a degree would mean 2.6 times more people are likely to be exposed to dangerous heat waves. Other effects would include a tenfold increase in the likelihood of ice-free arctic summers, a 38-per-cent increase in permafrost thaw and major impacts on fishery yields.
This year, there have been more glimpses into what increasingly wonky weather means, including devastating flooding in Pakistan and sweltering droughts in Europe and the Western United States.
There is some reason for optimism, despite what looks like insufficient action on climate today, Ms. Divgi said. The CDP survey shows that more companies are setting targets, even in places where there is no legal requirement for them to do so. In the U.S., for instance, 15 per cent of 798 companies surveyed have set public targets, and 19 per cent have SBTi goals.
“We are highly encouraged that this is getting much more mainstream than it was previously,” she said.
Jeffrey Jones writes about sustainable finance and the ESG sector for The Globe and Mail. E-mail him at email@example.com.