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The Guardian: Report uncovers emissions top UK firms keep hidden

Simon Bowers
Monday February 19, 2007

Greenhouse gas emissions running into hundreds of millions of tonnes have not been disclosed by Britain’s biggest businesses, masking the full extent of the UK’s contribution to global warming, according to a report published today by Christian Aid.

Only 16 of Britain’s top 100 listed companies are meeting the government’s most elementary reporting guidelines on greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, almost 200m tonnes of CO2 is estimated to be missing from the annual reports of FTSE 100 companies. The figure is more than the entire annual emissions of Pakistan and Greece combined.

Andrew Pendleton, the climate change analyst who wrote the report, said: “The calculations we have made relate to basics, like office lighting, but take no account of investment or supply chains, which are much bigger [emissions] areas. The figures that companies currently declare are such a mess that it is impossible to calculate their total emissions.”

Basic emissions reporting guidelines – backed by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – have been established for some time, but Christian Aid argues they must be made mandatory if they are to become a useful tool in measuring the impact of industry on global warming.

Last year research by the environmental analysts Trucost estimated Britain’s top 100 listed companies – almost all of them with operations around the world – produced between 12% and 15% of the planet’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Throwing a spotlight on UK plc’s carbon footprint is awkward for Tony Blair, who has cast his government as a progressive advocate for greenhouse gas reduction, repeatedly citing Britain’s estimated contribution of 2% of global emissions.

Returning from a holiday in the Caribbean recently, he said: “[If] we shut down all of Britain’s emissions tomorrow, the growth in China will make up the difference within two years. So we’ve got to be realistic about how much obligation we’ve got to put on ourselves.”

Christian Aid insists Britain is not assuming anything close to its full obligations. Just taking indirect emissions from five of Britain’s largest oil, gas and mining groups – BP, Shell, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata – accounts for more than 9% of global emissions, the charity claims.

Mr Pendleton’s report delivers a stinging attack on ministers, accusing them of “behaving like ostriches” and of “making a mockery” of their “rhetorical leadership” on climate change issues. The most basic direct emissions from FTSE 100 companies, according to the report, should be an estimated 477m tonnes – 67% higher than published figures show.

Standards for the fair allocation, by country and by organisation, of more complex indirect emissions remain the subject of debate – a debate that is likely to become increasingly heated should emissions be treated as financial liabilities.

Approaches vary considerably. For example, Marks & Spencer declares 5m tonnes of CO2 emissions, more than twice as much as its larger rival Tesco. The discrepancy is down to the fact that M&S includes its global supply chain and its customers’ journeys when calculating its carbon footprint and Tesco does not.,,2016064,00.html and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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