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How business are failing to hit climate targets — in numbers

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Plants grow in greenhouses in the Netherlands. Photo: Peter Dejong/AP

The World Economic Forum on Wednesday warned that governments and business were “falling well short” of taking the action required to tackle the global climate emergency, with just one in eight companies that publicly disclose their climate emissions actually managing to reduce their emissions.

Only seven governments worldwide have ambitions that could realistically support efforts to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the forum warned.

“Four years after the Paris Climate Agreement, tangible action from governments is falling well short of trajectories needed to restrict global warming to 1.5°C,” it said on Wednesday.

“Meanwhile, the actions of the majority of businesses that do support emissions reductions also currently fall far short of where they need to be.”

The warning comes as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise across the world. The 2015 Paris agreement called for emissions reductions of between 3% and 5% each year.

But, over the past decade, emissions have risen by an average of 1.5% each year.

“This trajectory, if allowed to continue, would lead to global warming of between 3°C to 5°C by 2100, with catastrophic consequences for the planet and societies,” the forum said, describing findings from a new report entitled “The Net Zero Challenge”.

Companies ‘currently fall far short’

According to an analysis conducted by CDP, which looked at 7,000 businesses that disclosed their emissions, only a third of companies provide full disclosure of how much greenhouse gas emissions their organisation generates.

Only around 25% set a specific emissions reduction target, and just one in eight “are actually reducing their emissions year-on-year.

Some 65% of companies have short-term targets, all of which expire within five years.

The report also found that, on average, both types of targets are about half of what would be needed for the 1.5°C reduction needed to avert a climate catastrophe.

Financial and energy companies are the “most advanced” when it comes to disclosing emissions, setting targets, and at actually reducing emissions, however.

The World Economic Forum said that the failures could be partly explained by the pressure on CEOs to deliver short-term returns over progress on climate-related measures.

The lack of reliable policy frameworks at national and international level are also partly to blame, the forum said.

Governments not reacting to scale of challenge

Around 67 countries have said that they want to reach net zero emissions by 2050, but they account for only 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Only 16% have developed roadmaps and “intermediate targets”, while just seven have actually instituted policy frameworks that could “realistically support” the goal of reach net zero emissions by then, the forum said.

“What the world needs is a combination of public ambition, policy certainty and company leadership to create a tipping point,” said Dominic Waughray, the managing director of the World Economic Forum.