Reducing carbon dioxide emissions by companies: plenty of action, scarce results

According to a recent study by the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), the world's most heavily-polluting companies are doing much to reduce emissions, but so far the results are unimpressive. On average, the world's largest polluters have failed to reduce their emissions.

According to the study, there are no major differences between companies as to what measures they are taking to reduce emissions. During the period under review, 2010-2015, there was a considerable increase in the quantity and standard of the measures that were taken. Companies also use a lot of other such measures. At the same time, however, when measured in tonnes the carbon dioxide emissions of companies did not decrease in relation to turnover. 

This result reflects the average situation in companies. In other words, there are indeed some companies that have been successful in reducing emissions. But because the largest polluters have generally failed in this regard, the success of a small number of companies does not have a significant impact on the overall result. For example, during the period under review General Motors Company and SSE plc succeeded in lowering their tonnage of carbon dioxide emissions, and at the same time reduce emissions relative to turnover. Moreover, the carbon control measures taken by both these companies were already of a high standard to begin with, and improved even more during the period under review.

At the other end, however, the analyses include companies such as Alliant Energy Corporation and ThyssenKrupp AG, whose carbon dioxide emissions and turnover-related carbon dioxide emissions increased in the same period. In addition, the measures taken by these companies to control their levels of carbon emissions were minor to begin with, and became even less effective over the course of the period under review.

It is impossible to say why, despite the increased measures, the emissions have not decreased. One can only cautiously speculate; it may be that the measures were insufficient for reducing emissions. It might also be that these measures would be effective in the long run, and so their impact was not visible in the five-year period in question. Another possibility is simply that the reported measures were in fact not implemented. Either way, the researchers emphasise that it is not possible to give a definitive answer.

There are also indications that on a broad scale, large institutional investors do not yet avoid investing in companies that produce large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions as part of their strategy. The study, which is still continuing, is based on data for the for 2010-2015 period that was collected in the climate change programme of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). The analysis examined a total of 252 global companies that are the largest CO2 emitters in the world. Measured in tonnes, annually they produce over 14% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The research is a Master's thesis work that is being done as part of the Neo-Carbon Energy research project, which is funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes. This project is being jointly carried out by LUT, the Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT, and the University of Turku's Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC).

More information:

Henri Mikkola, Henri.Mikkola@lut.fi, +358 50 409 1880

Petteri Laaksonen, directing teacher, +358 40 508 8498, petteri.laaksonen@tuulisaimaa.fi

Publication: http://www.doria.fi/handle/10024/135308