A round-up of top climate and energy stories. Please post links to more stories below.
The global companies with climate-smart strategies deliver double the returns of their rivals. But will this wisdom sink in fully before global warming really starts to rage?
The global companies with the sharpest focus on climate change have rewarded their investors with double the average return of the world’s corporate titans. That’s the startling message from the Carbon Disclosure Project, which released its annual Global 500 report on Wednesday.
On behalf of over 550 investment companies, managing $71 trillion of assets between them, the CDP challenged the 500 biggest companies in the world by market capitalisation to reveal detailed information about their carbon footprints and the action they are taking to tackle and adapt to global warming: 404 (81%) responded.
The CDP then compared the total financial returns between January 2005 and May 2011 of the companies identified as “carbon performance leaders” against the average of all 500. The former generated a return of 86%, the latter 43%.
Jonathan Grant, at PwC, which produced the CDP report, told me: “There is very definitely a strong correlation between good carbon performance and good financial performance. But we are not saying that one definitely caused the other.”
Grant suggests that high quality management will perform well on both financial returns and carbon strategy. But he adds: “Many companies point to the financial benefits of carbon strategy in both energy and resource efficiency.” Good carbon performance was defined as transparent reporting of carbon, setting and meeting carbon reduction targets and intelligent responses to both the risks and opportunities presented by changing climate.
Grant noted a distinctly better performance by European companies, such as Phillips Electronics, BMW and Tesco, compared with companies in the rest of the world. Apple, Amazon, Bank of China and Rosneft, for example, failed to respond at all to the CDP. He puts this contrast down to low carbon policies being more advanced and more high profile in Europe.
Another way to look at how business and climate change are interacting is to track the size of the global environmental market, i.e. green goods and services. A report from HSBC (subscribers only), released on Monday, does just that. In 2010, global green revenues grew 7% over 2009 to an all-time record of $567bn and are now about five times greater than in 2004. As a comparison, $567bn is between the GDP of Switzerland and Indonesia.
HSBC define green revenues in three broad categories with the largest being low-carbon energy, followed by water, waste and pollution control and then energy efficiency. While the US, Canada, Japan and big European nations dominate the green market, Brazil entered the top 10 for the first time this year at number nine, one ahead of the UK. China, which entered the top 10 in 2009, is at eight in 2010.
The nation’s top oil and gas drilling regulator on Tuesday criticized the industry for making repeated claims that the federal government is “slow-walking” on getting companies back to work in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill last year.
“I continue to be disappointed to see politically motivated, erroneous reports and commentaries, sponsored by various industry associations and groups, criticizing the [government] for allegedly ‘slow-walking’ permits and plans,” Michael Bromwich, the Interior Department’s point man on oil and gas drilling, said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That is a phrase we see repeated over and over again, and it is simply not true.”
Bromwich reinforced a plea he has made to Congress numerous times since the April 2010 BP spill: Interior’s new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement needs more money to do its job and function at a level that will help the industry.
A coastal mayor says tests show tar balls washed onto Alabama’s beaches by a recent tropical storm are from last year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said Tuesday the connection was found in preliminary tests performed by Auburn University. Kennon says additional tests will be conducted to determine more details.
Tropical Storm Lee dumped tar balls on the coast. BP says additional cleanup workers were added at the request of area leaders, and teams also are working longer hours.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is urging senior lawmakers to buck the current zeal for budget cutting and boost federal investment in clean-energy research and development.
Gates — joined by a number of private-sector titans — took to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to argue that a far more muscular role is needed to expand innovation.
Their group, called the American Energy Innovation Council, wants to boost what it argues have been anemic federal investments in a sector vital to U.S. economic competitiveness, security and other goals.
“This group are all big believers in innovation, and we are all big believers in the importance of energy innovation,” Gates said at a briefing for reporters Tuesday.