back to article Corporate investments are a massive hidden source of carbon emissions

Many large corporations are taking measures to reduce their carbon footprints, but a new report claims that for some, the greatest source of emissions is actually from investments being made with their wealth, and this is undermining their own environmental efforts. The Carbon Bankroll report highlights the documented carbon …

  1. tony72

    Double counting?

    The Carbon Bankroll report highlights the documented carbon dioxide emissions of a number of large corporations and contrasts these with pollutants being generated as a result of the cash and investments held by those companies, comprising cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities.

    Doesn't there have to be some double counting going on here? The aforementioned cash and investments are presumably invested in companies, and the carbon generated by those companies is counted against them. If Microsoft directly or indirectly invests in, say Shell, CO2 generated by Shell gets counted against Shell's emissions; how does it make sense to count it against Microsoft as well?

    1. Duncan10101

      Re: Double counting?

      I some ways I agree about double-counting. However, I don't think that the extra carbon emissions are being attributed to Microsoft directly. More a case of pointing-out that if they are serious about the environment, one of the most powerful controls they have available, is to move their investments ... which they don't seem to have done. The same applies to all of us who have pension funds. I've moved my pension into sustainable funds (and to be honest, their performance is pretty good). I feel my position would be untenable if I invested in oil, and then said said "Don't blame me for the destruction of the environment ... just blame the company that I invested my money in, hoping for a quick buck."

    2. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

      Re: Double counting?

      If you don't "Double Count" as you put it then it would make it far too easy for big companies to greenwash by restructuring, eg If Amazon split their logistics into one company, AWS into another and had a power generation company (for AWS, using coal) into another then they just don't include the CO2 from the delivery or power generation parts of the group.

      The other point that the report is making is if these companies are really serious about their green credentials then they shouldn't be investing in companies who not actively working to reduce their CO2 emissions.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Double counting?

        Yes financial engineering to make themselves look better is a concern if these reports became important.

        The other risk is that lets say a company good green credentials invests or partners with one who has a terrible track record, but it is all part of a strategy to get them to turn that around. Maybe they hope that if enough others join them they can exert pressure. Maybe they are partnering with them to change that.

        Let's say hypothetically a "green" company buys another that operates datacenters powered by on site coal plants. They immediately make plans to replace those coal powered datacenters with best in class green energy showcases, but it will take several years to fully transition - in the meantime the green company looks really bad. Should they be punished for that even though the outcome is desirable?

        I see the goal of these ratings, but there are a lot of asterisks and gotchas.

        1. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

          Re: Double counting?

          Let's say hypothetically a "green" company buys another that operates datacenters powered by on site coal plants. They immediately make plans to replace those coal powered datacenters with best in class green energy showcases, but it will take several years to fully transition - in the meantime the green company looks really bad. Should they be punished for that even though the outcome is desirable?

          I think most people are adult enough to see the good intentions if there was a press release shortly after purchase giving that vision and updates from time to time to show progress.

          In terms of investing in companies to exert pressure to change, why not invest in the competition that is either green or is changing ?

  2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    FAIL

    "Companies not responding to our pressure!"

    Says pressure group.

    1. Bitsminer Bronze badge

      Re: "Companies not responding to our pressure!"

      Says pressure extortion group.

      FTFY.

      (What these groups are not doing is directing their energies at the highest emitters -- construction (cement manufacture), transportation (oil-powered ships, trains and trucks), and cold humans (space-heating in northern climates for instance.) Too hard to do, I expect.)

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: "Companies not responding to our pressure!"

        You're falling victim to the "if you aren't solving all the problems you aren't solving any of the problems" fallacy. A single organization can specialize in certain aspects of the problem, and leave those other problems to someone else.

        There was just news a couple weeks ago about a couple guys who invented a carbon negative method for making ordinary portland cement (the waste products of their process soak up more CO2 than is emitted in the energy consuming stages, and can even later be used as aggregate for concrete) which is also less expensive than the current standard. If they aren't the Theranos of the cement world and their method scales, it will be a game changer for CO2 emissions from construction activities.

        Would you tell them they are totally ignoring transportation like oil powered ships, trains and trucks, and home heating in northern climates? Because they are, no matter how much they reduce emissions in cement production they aren't making container ships even a tiny bit more efficient, those bastards!

        1. Bitsminer Bronze badge

          Re: "Companies not responding to our pressure!"

          You're falling victim to the...

          No I'm not. I'm pointing out the carbon outputs of a cement factory far exceed the carbon outputs of a bank.

          It's clear the climate extor...whatever-you-want-to-call-them are pushing all the buttons they can find. "Corporate Social Responsibility" players like Microsoft, Philip Morris, Meta, etc etc.

          And since everyone hates banks, they pressure the CSR crowd to pile on the hate.

          Their argument is unpersuasive, as it's very indirect. Don't support the company that works with a bank that finances another company to find and pump oil. Too many logical hops.

          Your own bank finances the oil companies. Every time you fuel your vehicle and pay with a credit card you are financing an oil company through your bank.

          Do you expect your bank to decline all fuel purchases on a credit card? Should Visa stop servicing retail fuel merchants? Should Mastercard? It won't fly because banks are not an appropriate target.

          If you want to decarbonize the economy, build a wooden house, don't buy stuff shipped overseas (shop local instead), and buy a sweater. And an electric car. And also do all the other hundred things that help.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: "Companies not responding to our pressure!"

      It's just your standard extortion mixed with greenwash-

      https://www.outdoorpolicy.org/team

      So a bunch of people who owe(d) their living to utilising products from the petrochemical industry. Now they want to ban petrochemicals. And-

      https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/MTEwMzE1

      Fiscally Sponsored by Social Good Fund

      https://www.socialgoodfund.org/about/8032-2/

      who take a 6-8% cut of revenues generated. Then-

      https://www.climatesafelending.org/csl-network-team

      James is a director of Regen and an advisor for a small number of NGOs in Europe including the Club of Rome.

      Oh. Club of Rome? Where's my tinfoil? But wait, there's more-

      Lydia sits on the advisory group of the Banking on a Just Transition initiative run by the Grantham Institute at London School of Economics

      The LSE's always had a... certain reputation, as does the 'bubble king' Jeremy Grantham, who basically rents space for the 'Institute' off the LSE and possibly rents naming rights from the LSE. That's run by Nick Stern, and his trusty side kick, Bob Ward, who has a.. certain reputation for misinformation when it comes to accurately communicating climate science. At least if the number of his rejected complaints to various newspapers that dare to publish anything vaguely sceptical is anything to go by.

      And finally-

      https://bankfwd.org/

      Founded by members of the Rockefeller family, the mission of BankFWD is to accelerate the transition to a just, zero-carbon economy by influencing banks to align their business strategies with the 1.5° target of the Paris Climate Agreement

      So.. Rockefellers. Can't really get much more 'big oil' funded than the founding family behind Standard Oil. Plus their statement is, of course false-

      https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Paris_Agreement

      Article 2

      1. This Agreement, in enhancing the implementation of the Convention, including its objective, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, including by:

      (a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

      (b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;

      (c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate- resilient development.

      Ok, there's some wriggle room there based on what 'well below' means, but the target is <2°C. Insisting it actually means <1.5°C has become more popular for a number of reasons. One's relatively climate scientific, ie you can't get there from here. Dogma assumes around 1.3C per doubling of CO2, with a logarithmic relationship between temps and CO2 levels. That's the ECS (Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity) argument, ie the more sensitive the planet is to CO2, the faster the temperatures will rise. So using various assumptions in assorted climate models, anything from no warming, to 11°C.

      But science often isn't static. So if ECS is high, we'd need to keep CO2 levels low (or reduce them) to keep the temp increase <2°C. If it's low, and there's negative climate feedbacks, we can burn all the fossil fuels we want, and we'll miss the 2°C target. So if temperatures aren't rising as fast as models with high ECS assumptions predicted, obviously that strongly suggests ECS is too high in those models. One can test this via reanalysis, so comparing model predictions against observations.

      So basically on current trends, we've already achieved the goal of <2°C warming because ECS is low, so we won't get there. So in typical climate 'science', simply move the goalposts. Now, we must keep it below 1.5°C for... reasons. Mostly financial, namely it'll cost trillions, and that money will flow into the Green Blob represented by these clowns.

      Oddly enough, the 'renewables' lobby these people represent aren't immune to reality, so cost of production, transportation, installation and operation of massive bird slicers has also increased. Which is bad, especially when people are asking when they'll see cost reductions passed through from the 'renewables' blob. They keep telling us 'renewables' are now sooo cheap, yet our energy bills continue to rise.

      By far the biggest red flag should be that none of these astroturfers actually bother to publish their accounts, or even 501(c)3 details in their 'About Us' pages. There's usually 2 reasons for this, either to conceal their overheads, or conceal their funding sources. Or sometimes to obscure political campaigning and lobbying, which may be prohibited based on their 'charitable' status.

      1. Duncan Macdonald

        Re: "Companies not responding to our pressure!" - ocean fertilization

        One technique that was proposed to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere - adding iron to the areas in the ocean where it is the limiting nutrient - was squelched by a number of the climate change groups who were horrified that a simple technological fix could remove their importance and salaries.

        (Crudely each atom of iron can remove over 1000 molecules of CO2 from the atmosphere when it is added to an area of the ocean which is deficient in iron but has the other required nutrients.)

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: "Companies not responding to our pressure!" - ocean fertilization

          I've been a bit dubious about that proposal. Partly due to oceans being kinda big, so how much iron we'd need to dump. And what to do in the event of an 'oops', and how reversable the process would be.

          Then again, it could be the ideal solution to the 'renewables' problem. Simply dry & grind renewables lobbyists, and dump them in the ocean. Then they can truly play a part in improving the environment in a biodegradable way. Or in a somewhat less extreme version, grind up the windmills. Plenty of iron used in those.

          I'm also curious what the long-term environmental effects of mass windmills will be. There's some interesting ones, like downwind climate change due to vertical mixing. So drying out land over a fairly large area downwind of a wind farm. Or for off-shore, the effects of sound, vibration and shadow flicker on marine life. Onshore, some of those effects are more well known, ie killing lots of normally protected bird & bat species.

          It's probably one of the least environmentally friendly industrys on the planet, yet idiotic politicians are convinced they're saving it.

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: "Companies not responding to our pressure!" - ocean fertilization

            It's essentially ocean fertilisation using iron. Causes massive increase in phytoplankton which apparently draws a huge amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. In turn this leads to an increase on zooplankton and the fish stocks that feed on them.

            An "iron seeding event" of Alaska massively increase Salmon stocks there the following year:

            https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2014/06/more-information-about-salmon-and-iron.html

            Volcanic erruptions have also been posited to affect ocean iron and therefore plankton levels and the creatures that feed on that plankton:

            https://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v488/p81-88/

            It's a super-cheap way of reducing atmospheric CO2, improving global fish stocks, increasing our abiliity to feed ourselves, and it doesn't mean crippling our economies, forcing poor people out of their cars, or insisting everyone scrap their perfectly functional central heating systems for something that costs 30-grand-plus.

            Life can pretty much go on as before and the vast majority of people will be a lot happier for it.

            Which is why it will never be allowed to happen at scale. Too many vested interests in scaring the crap out of people about uncontrollable CO2 levels unless we all go back to living in caves.

  3. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
    Flame

    When they said ...

    ... "cash burn rate", I didn't think they meant literally.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No sane country can afford to stop investing in oil and gas

    Even though banks, large investment firms and big tech claim to do it (and some are really doing it) to get Gretel brownie points for green behaviour, the sombre truth is that oil and gas are the source of power. By power, I mean military, raw power. Even with a big gun and armour plates, a Tesla will still be a sub optimal military assault vehicle, although a green, non-polluting one. Same for the supply chain for all chemical components used in weapons, it uses oil and gas at one point or another for transport or as ingredients.

    Let's face it, being to first to get rid of oil will put you at a disadvantage from a national security point of view.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: No sane country can afford to stop investing in oil and gas

      These people generally aren't sane.

      Teslas contain a lot of plastic & rubber, so probably couldn't be made without using petrochemicals. There are sometimes alternatives, eg biodegradeable 'plastic' stuff made from plant products, but they're intended to degrade on exposure to moisture, UV etc, so not entirely suitable for a car that isn't disposable.

    2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: No sane country can afford to stop investing in oil and gas

      Exactly this. Until the world is ready to move away from fossil fuels, and by ready I mean has the necessary electricity generation with reliable baseload and not backed by the very things you're trying to eliminate, domestic and commericial heating, industrial capabilities, charging and/or hydrogen infrastructure, supply chains, agriculture, logistics and a million other related and interdependent things all sorted out, the main effect is a massive net increase in hardship for millions, if not billions of people.

      It's a noble goal, but we a long, long way from having the necessary in place. Hell we don't even have the bare minimum in place. Rushing headlong into an aribtrary net-zero target without a clue how to actually get there is lunacy. Unless the goal is massive civil unrest as your population finds life progressively harder, colder and more expensive.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Jimmy2Cows - Re: No sane country can afford to stop investing in oil and gas

        The multi-billion dollar question here is what is the minimum quantity of oil and gas for fuel and other petrochemicals needed to produce renewable energy (hydro, solar, wind, geothermal etc.). If the answer is different to zero (warning! close enough is not enough) then we're pretty much doomed. Not to mention about clean water, food, health care and a few of other vital products.

        All this is from a strictly scientific and technological point of view. If we add global financial interests and political games to this exercise we can hardly see an exit.

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