• Net-zero pledges seen as varying in quality, but corporate pressure showing

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

Two articles in the Financial Times have drawn a contrast in corporate attitudes to low/zero greenhouse gas emissions energy pledges. The first article covers net-zero pledges made by various companies around the world, regardless of the sector they operate in. It argues that the language used by companies – ‘ambitions’ is a favourite word – can be deceptive, because “some appear a lot more real than others”. An example is HSBC bank’s stated ‘ambition’ to reduce its financing of projects with significant GHG emissions, setting a 2050 goal to achieve the target; the criticism is that there are no intermediate goals and apparently no jeopardy for failing to realise the long-term ambition. Yet HSBC is in the minority of UK banks in having a science-based goal – last year it was found that only 29% of lenders did so (though for the FTSE 100 set of companies more widely, half had goals). For oil and gas companies, a report by the Transition Pathways Initiative (a respected corporate tracking organisation) in September found that of 163 companies in coal mining, electricity, and oil and gas production and distribution, the average ‘management quality’ level score was 2.7 (the maximum being level 4, ‘strategic assessment’, while level 2 is ‘building capacity’ and level 3 ‘integrating into operational decision making’), with no oil and gas company on course for meeting its own target. Overall, the worry appears to be that pledges are often simply lip service.

A quite different yet not contradictory viewpoint is demonstrated in the second article, which describes how Sony and other major Japanese companies have let the national government know that they are considering moving manufacturing offshore to be able to utilise renewable energies. Clients of theirs, such as Apple and Facebook, are themselves looking to reduce the carbon-equivalent footprints of their supply chains (with Apple calling for its component suppliers to have switched entirely to renewable energies by 2030), and Sony et al are finding it difficult to purchase renewable energy within Japan. The companies, members of the Japan Climate Initiative, have requested that the government raise its current 2030 renewables target from 24% to 40%, while the government has promised to re-examine regulations that may be hampering the deployment of renewables. Supply chain pressure, driven by public pressure, is working, it seems.