Long stories short
- Australian battery company Recharge Industries won a bid to buy Britishvolt out of administration.
- Authorities in Chile arrested 10 people accused of starting deadly wildfires.
- BP said it would increase oil and gas investment after announcing record profits of $28 billion for 2022 (more below).
Just 44 of the UK’s 100 biggest listed companies have set emissions targets that are aligned with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2C, according to new analysis from Tortoise.
The Tortoise research takes companies’ emissions targets and converts them into a temperature projection.
So what? This is the first time individual temperature projections for the 100 biggest UK listed companies have been published. It shows that relatively few companies on the London exchange are prepared for a future of rapid decarbonisation.
The FTSE has been flattered over the past year by soaring energy prices and the downturn in the technology sector, but its exposure to carbon-intensive businesses suggests long-term weakness.
The analysis found:
- Autotrader, Next, SSE, Tesco and Whitbread are among just 16 FTSE 100 companies that have set targets aligned with a 1.5C rise in global temperatures and are also on track to meet that target.
- A total of 29 companies in the FTSE 100 are aligned with a temperature rise of more than 3C, including Shell, Rio Tinto and BAE Systems.
Tortoise reported last year that if everyone decarbonised at the same rate that the FTSE 100 collectively plans to, the world would be on track for warming of at least 2.8C. The full list of companies and temperature pathways is published here.
Separate analysis from the Science Based Targets initiative show that both Germany’s DAX 30 and France’s CAC 40 have lower temperature pathways than the FTSE 100. The London index is heavily exposed to oil, gas and mining companies.
However, no advanced economy index is aligned with the Paris goal of limiting warming to well below 2C and preferably to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
The UN said last year that there was “no credible pathway” to holding the global temperature rise to 1.5C. Above this level, millions more people around the world will be exposed to extreme heat waves, rainfall and drought, while the risk of forest fires and the spread of invasive species and pests increases.
Off track Overall, less than half of FTSE 100 companies are on track to meet their emissions reductions targets, wherever those targets are set.
Companies are coming under growing pressure from investors, consumers and regulators to prepare for the transition to net zero. But while some of the UK’s biggest companies have grasped the need for change, far too many are still focused on business as usual.
Oil and gas results season has brought bumper profits, as expected, and also confirmation that they are slowing down on investment in renewables. Some are more brazen than others. US companies have always been laggards and Darren Woods, chief executive of Exxon, spoke of “bucking conventional wisdom”. Yet Shell is showing caution too, spending $3.5 billion on renewables and energy solutions last year (around 14 per cent of total capital expenditure), and expecting to hold that steady in 2023. One of the challenges for oil majors is the shortage of targets for a big clean energy deal. A shortage of money is definitely not a problem.
Blowing hot and cold
Just two new wind turbines were installed in England in 2022, according to research from trade body RenewableUK. Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of power generation and, along with solar, one of the quickest to deploy. Yet its rollout in England is choked by a planning framework that says new applications must have the backing of the local community and be in an area identified as “suitable” for wind. Six new onshore wind projects were installed in Scotland last year, accounting for nearly all the new onshore power capacity added in the UK in 2022. The government has announced a consultation on reform of planning rules. Change can’t happen fast enough.
“The climate crisis is burning Chile,” Colombian president Gustavo Petro tweeted. Colombia, Spain, the US and Argentina have all offered help tackling fires that have claimed 24 lives and burned nearly 100,000 acres. Wildfires are a natural phenomenon but have been growing in intensity and spreading in range due to climate change and changes in the way land is used – such as logging, which builds up the amount of flammable debris. The world will have to learn to live with fire, and reduce the risks it poses. A UN report last year noted that fires don’t respect borders and called for wildfires to be placed in the same category of global humanitarian response as major earthquakes and floods.
Bad air blues
Researchers have found that exposure to air pollution is associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety. The study, published in the Journal of American Medicine Psychiatry by researchers at Peking University School of Public Health, the University of Oxford and Imperial College, provides fresh evidence of the need for tighter controls on air quality in Britain. Air pollution is already established as the biggest environmental threat to public health in the UK, associated with more than 36,000 deaths annually. Poorer areas and ethnic minority communities are often the worst affected – though the popularity of wood-burning stoves among the middle class may create new hotspots.
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