Most European companies have no target for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions even though 80% see climate change as a business risk, a survey has found.
Among those that have set climate goals, only one in three stretch beyond 2025, according to the annual Carbon Disclosure Project report.
Instead, corporate action has focused in the boardroom, with 47% of firms rewarding their CEOs for climate performance, and a quarter tying incentives to environmental goals.
European firms now make up half of the CDP’s environmental “A-list” and the managing director for Europe, Steven Tebbe, praised climate disclosure’s entry into the financial mainstream.
“The next decade is vital if our shift to a sustainable economy is to be successful, and companies lie at the heart of this transition,” he said.
A-list companies on the Stoxx global climate change leaders index outperformed their peers by 5.5% per annum this decade, he noted.
Although 53% of companies surveyed did not yet have climate goals, 58% reported carbon cuts in 2018, amounting to a total reduction of the equivalent of 85m tonnes of CO2 – as much as Austria’s annual emissions.
One-third of companies reported increased emissions.
One A-listed property management firm, Landsec, has cut its greenhouse gases by 17% since 2014 – on the way to a planned 40% tail-off by 2030.
Caroline Hill, Landsec’s head of sustainability, said: “We set what was the first science-based carbon reduction target in real estate, based on what was needed in our sector to ensure the world keeps within 1.5 to 2C of global warming.”
She said the company drove down energy consumption in London offices and suburban retail parks by upgrading to LED lighting and systematically installing rooftop solar panels.
This year, CDP received climate disclosures from 849 European companies in 23 countries, with combined emissions of around 2.3bn tonnes of CO2 – a total greater than the UK, Germany and France combined.
Campaigners responded angrily to the inclusion on the A-list of fossil fuel firms such as Engie, Naturgy Energy Group SA and Neste Oyj, chemical firms Bayer AG and BASF, and food companies such as Nestlé.
Pascoe Sabido, a spokesman for Corporate Europe Observatory, said: “If these companies represent the crème de la crème of environmentally-friendly big businesses, then we really are in trouble.
“They shouldn’t be celebrated, they should be kept as far away from our policy-makers as possible.”
Tebbe said: “We are not claiming these are perfect companies – far from it – but they are really going beyond the consensus and showing leadership in their sectors.”