We’d Rather Not Say
The environmentalists who set out four years ago to get the world’s industrial giants to track and report their greenhouse gas emissions are running into trouble in Asia. Few companies – including some of the most illustrious names in Hong Kong and China – want to reveal how much greenhouse gas they are actually pumping into the sky.
The group of environmentally aware institutional investors known as the Carbon Disclosure Project convinced 72 percent of Financial Times 500 companies in Western countries to report their emissions this year but only 32 of Asia’s top 125 companies answered the project’s questionnaire. Another four provided at least some information. Some 70 didn’t bother to answer and 19 did said they weren’t going to participate.
Asia’s Companies Don’t Cooperate
This a subject of increasing concern as countries in Asia, particularly India and China, increase their pace of industrialization. As long ago as 2004, China reported that its industries were the world’s second-biggest producers of greenhouse gases and gaining fast. According to a World Bank report issued in May, China increased its greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent between 1992 and 2002, while India’s emissions grew 57 percent over the same period.
The Carbon Disclosure Project got underway four years ago as an attempt to delineate the size and scope of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The collaboration brings together 225 investors with combined assets of US$31 trillion that have one thing in common – the share the concerns of most scientists over the role of emissions in global warming, which drove up the mean temperature of the earth’s atmosphere by 0.6 degrees in the 20th century. Environmentalists have been warning for more than two decades that climate change could lead to disastrous conditions unless carbon emissions are reversed.
Accordingly, the Carbon Disclosure Project sent questionnaires seeking answers about carbon emission levels, practices and policies to the 500 biggest global companies as well as an additional 1,600 throughout the world. Nearly 950 of the 2,100 total completed the 10-question document outlining their emissions practices.
But “the Asia ex-Japan region is clearly at a less advanced stage in addressing climate change through government policy and regulation than more developed regions such as Europe, the US and Japan,” noted the project’s report, issued in September.
Some big Hong Kong and Chinese companies did provide information, among them Swire Pacific and Hutchison Whampoa, which was cited for its cooperation. China Light & Power and Hong Kong Electric, two of the region’s biggest utilities, responded and were cited favourably by the report’s authors.
But at least 47 energy companies, among them Hong Kong & China Gas, didn’t respond to the questionnaire. Others declining to participate included PetroChina, the state-owned oil giant, and China Unicom. Two of Hong Kong’s biggest trading companies, Jardine Matheson and Wharf holdings, also declined, as did Henderson Land Development.
In Europe and the United States, only five of the top 100 companies didn’t respond. Two indicated they would decline to participate. Some 83 of the top 100 answered questionnaires.
The 125 Asian companies queried are in nine countries: China including Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. The sample included 39 of Asia’s largest companies in Asia outside Japan, selected by the Hong Kong-based Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia, whose executive director is Melissa Brown.