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Shell admits its carbon emission higher than total for whole of UK logo

Nearly half of FTSE-250 companies keep their carbon footprints hidden

• 105 firms fail to respond to Carbon Disclosure Project 
• Shell reaches 743m tonnes of carbon a year and rising

  • The Guardian, 
  • Wednesday October 8 2008

The number of leading British companies willing to disclose their carbon footprint to City investors has fallen this year, research reveals today.

Only 58% of companies in the FTSE-250 index responded to the latest survey by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). Those who refused to take part include Thomas Cook and the InterContinental Hotels Group.

The figures have angered environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth, which said they undermined efforts to make reporting mandatory.

Those firms that did reveal their numbers to the CDP include Shell, which admitted that the total amount of carbon produced by extracting and then burning its oil and gas reached 743m tonnes last year – considerably higher than the total for the whole of the UK.

Drax, the coal-fired power station company, was among those that did give details to the project but only on condition they were not publicly revealed.

Some of those that refused to cooperate claimed that global warming was not “relevant” to their operations or said they did not have the resources to provide information, said Paul Simpson, chief operating officer of the CDP, which acts on behalf of 385 institutional investors with $57tn (£33tn) of funds under management.

“It is very concerning but it’s a matter of whether you look at the glass half empty or the glass half full,” he said. “There is enormous progress from where we were five years ago.”

The well-to-wheels figures released by Shell, BP and others were worrying, he admitted. “The emissions from product use given by companies such as Shell, BP and Rio Tinto are high but we should really be applauding these companies for leading the way by providing full Scope 3 disclosures [including product use and disposal as well as production]. This is not a company problem; it is a society problem because we use these products and we can only deal with it if we have some true figures to deal with.”

Shell’s 743m tonnes compares with 587m for Britain as a whole and is likely to grow as the company develops its tar sand schemes in Canada. Rio Tinto reported 660m and BP 521m tonnes.

Tim Jenkins, chief economist at Friends of the Earth, said the poor level of response to the CDP survey showed that companies could not be relied on to give vital information voluntarily. “This undermines the government’s strategy of weakening the Lords amendment and its efforts to introduce carbon budgeting.”

Kevin Smith, climate and finance campaigner at the environmental group Platform, said firms such as Shell were also undermining the efforts of thousands of people in Britain who were doing all they could to avert a climate crisis. He believed the government should intervene.

“We should be looking to regulate those institutions whose profitability is tied to increasing the amount of fossil fuels they extract,” he said. “This structure of shareholder return makes them unable to make meaningful emissions cuts.”

Neither Thomas Cook nor InterContinental Hotels were available for comment.

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