More than half of companies are not on the track to meet the Paris Agreement target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, almost equal to the share of those that don’t fully support the goal, while net zero is not seen as commercially viable by the two thirds. Carbon-intensive industries and firms based in emerging markets, including Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Turkey, are struggling the most with the transition.
Zeronomics, banking group Standard Chartered’s new study into the financing of a net zero world, surveyed the senior leadership of 250 large companies and 100 investment specialists from both carbon-intensive and less carbon-intensive industries. The survey was organised between September and October 2020.
The study reveals a gulf between words and action
The most important results are:
- 55% of business leaders believe their companies are not transitioning fast enough to reach net zero by 2050,
- 85% of companies need medium or high levels of investment to transition to net zero,
- 47% of companies fully support the aims of the Paris Agreement.
Standard Chartered said it commissioned the major global study to understand how far companies have come on their journey to decarbonise and added that it reveals a gulf between words and action.
Net zero is not seen as commercially viable
Companies are moving too slowly, as 78% of investors say most business leaders are failing to take the action needed to transition their company by 2050 while 61% of investors won’t invest in a company without a net zero plan.
61% of investors won’t invest in a company without a net zero plan
Many companies are looking to delay significant action until after 2030, and the 2020s are looking to become a lost decade. More than a third of business leaders (34%) said their companies would make the most progress between 2030 and 2040, while 37% said they would take most action between 2040 and 2050.
According to the research, net zero is also not seen as commercially viable, as 64% of senior executives believe the economics of operating as a net zero organisation do not stack up for their company.
64% of business leaders believe their company’s progress is being hampered by an absence of affordable alternative technology
Most companies are delaying transition because they do not feel they are currently equipped to meet the target. Some 64% of business leaders believe their company’s progress is being hampered by an absence of affordable alternative technology to help them transition.
Greatest barrier is lack of finance
The companies’ progress is being hampered by a lack of finance: it is the greatest barrier to net zero transition, according to both senior executives and investors. And the need for finance is great: 85% of companies require medium or high levels of investment to transition to net zero, rising to 91% of carbon-intensive companies.
Carbon-intensive industries and emerging markets are struggling the most: both companies and investors believe that significantly more investment is being directed at developed markets than emerging markets, and that carbon-intensive sectors in emerging markets would experience the most significant capital shortfall, the researchers underscored.
How to speed up the transition – global carbon tax
A majority of companies believe that a standardised global measurement and disclosure framework would help them move faster, as would more evidence of cost savings, pressure from supply chain partners and investors, and an effective global carbon tax.
According to the study, most business leaders point to standardised net zero measurement frameworks (81%) as a way to speed up the transition, underlining the fact that what they have currently – a matrix of different definitions, measurement and reporting requirements – is a major challenge for senior executives.
Meanwhile, 79% of business leaders said an increased demand for net zero products and services and increasing pressure from customers to move to net zero would help the world hit the target by 2050.