UK global warming impact greatly underestimated, says new report

By staff writers
February 19, 2007

The UK’s real impact on global warming has been massively underestimated, according to new research revealing that millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases produced by some of the UK’s top companies are not being declared.

Almost 200 million tonnes of the damaging CO2 greenhouse gas – equivalent to around a third of the UK’s currently declared annual emissions – is missing from the annual reports of major companies operating on the London Stock Exchange, says the report from international development agency Christian Aid.

But these ‘missing millions’ represent only a small fraction of total undeclared emissions, according to the report Coming Clean: Revealing the UK’s True Carbon Footprint [*.PDF file] published today (Monday 19 February 2007) to mark the start of Christian Aid's new climate change campaign.

One estimate suggests that emissions associated with FTSE 100 company activity worldwide amount to 12 to 15 per cent of the global total. This figure stands in stark contrast to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s assertion that the UK produces "only" around two per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, says the agency.

"Our research reveals a truly staggering quantity of unreported carbon dioxide is emitted around the world by the top 100 companies on the London Stock Exchange," said Andrew Pendleton, Christian Aid’s senior climate change analyst. "And we don’t even know the extent of the emissions of many of the biggest companies."

Christian Aid found that only 16 out of the 100 companies on the FTSE 100 Index properly report their basic emissions according to established standards. If all members of the FTSE 100 applied these standards to their emissions reports, it is estimated that these companies would have to declare a further 190.65 million tonnes of carbon.

"This is the tip of the iceberg and the real figure is likely to reach into billions of tonnes of carbon not millions," declared Mr Pendleton.

"The calculations we have made relate to basics, like offices and lighting, but take no account of investment or supply chains which is a much bigger area. The figures that companies currently declare are such a mess that it is impossible to calculate their total emissions," he said

"That is why we need clear, reporting standards applied across the board. These guidelines exist already and the government must now make them mandatory," said Mr Pendleton.

Christian Aid’s report marks the beginning of a major new campaign for the organisation that sees climate change as the most pressing issue for millions of the world’s poorest people.

"The developing world is on the front line of a climate change that has been caused by the rich world. It is our moral duty to halt the CO2 emissions that place millions of the most vulnerable people in peril from sea level rise, floods, famines and conflict that are being ushered in by the world becoming warmer," explained Mr Pendleton.

He added that if carbon emissions are ever to be cut back by an average of five per cent per year across the world, as many scientists now believe is necessary to achieve climate equilibrium, the true scale of carbon emissions has to be known first.

"We must confront the issue of the UK’s “carbon omissions”. At the moment disclosure is entirely voluntary which is a disgrace. Carbon ought to be the central part of any responsible company’s report," Mr Pendleton said.

He concluded: "The UK thinks of itself as leading on climate change on the international stage and Mr Blair’s efforts to broker a deal have heroic potential. If we’re to prevent these efforts ending in failure, we have to show that we’re prepared to take responsibility for our real global carbon footprint."

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