$15 trillion investor group criticise transport firms on climate



New research from $15 trillion-backed Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) analyses automotive, aviation and shipping sectors

35% of transport companies have emission reduction plans consistent with the national pledges made in Paris in 2015; but with COP talks set to ratchet up climate targets in 2020 less than one in five (19%) on track to limit climate change to 2°C.

Autos: Car manufacturers are getting steadily cleaner. 43%of auto companies have improved their climate Management Quality this year, and average fleet emissions intensity is falling up to 2.5% per year.

Shipping: The largest publicly-owned shipping companies are surprisingly green in terms of emissions intensity. 61%are already aligned to a 2°C or below pathway. But these companies are likely unrepresentative of the sector as a whole.

Aviation: Sector’s climate governance is improving, but airlines’ Carbon Performance is worse than any other sector analysed by TPI except oil and gas. Investors critical of potential dependence on offsetting to achieve carbon reductions

Direct emissions from transport currently account for nearly one quarter of total energy-related CO2emissions worldwide, but new investor research on 57 of the world’s largest transport companies finds that less than one fifth (19%) have emissions reduction plans in line with a path to keep global warming to 2°C or below.

The study was carried out for the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. It analyses the climate Management Quality and Carbon Performance of 57 of the world’s largest and highest-emitting public companies involved in automobile manufacturing, air transportation and international freight shipping.

Faith Ward, Co-chair TPI on behalf of the Environment Agency Pension Fund, part of the Brunel Pension Partnership said:

“From freight ships to Ferraris, it’s encouraging that most major transport companies have set a course for a low carbon future. But they are not going fast enough. The message for the world’s airline, automotive and shipping giants from both the UN climate talks and today’s TPI research is very clear: As the low carbon transition ratchets up in 2020 the transport sector risks being left behind. Among 22 large car makers, only two are on track to keep global warming to 2°C or below, so the rest must accelerate their climate action to meet the demands of climate-conscious investors.”

Adam Matthews, Co-Chair of TPIand Director of Ethics & Engagement at Church of England Pensions Board added:

“Investors will be troubled by stalled climate progress in aviation, and by the sector’s reliance on net emissions targets. The issue with these targets is that they obscure whether emission reductions plans will depend largely on offsetting rather than a shift to lower-carbon aviation operations. A dependence on offsetting is not a credible climate strategy given the urgency of making deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of the economy.”

Key findings from the report include:


Shipping accounts for around 3%of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and the sector has been labelled agraph worst offender environmentally, due to its use of heavy ‘bunker fuel’.

However the TPI research calculates emissions intensity,i.e. emissions relative to cargo mass and distance transported – and finds that eight out of 13 shipping companies (61%)are alreadyaligned with the more ambitious 2°C or below benchmarks for 2030.

As shown in the image to the right this is a much higher level of alignment than the airline or automotive sectors and makes shipping the best ranking of all sectors analysed by TPI in terms of emissions intensity. Though it is important to note that the research analyses the 13 largest publicly-owned companies engaged in international marine freight transportation – which tend to operate newer, larger vessels, which have lower carbon intensities are therefore are unlikely to be representative of the sector as a whole*. 

Auto manufacturers

Car makers are showing steady climate progress. Nine of the 21 automotive companies (43%) for which TPI has trend data improved their climate Management Quality score this year. The sector performs very well on incorporating climate change into executive remuneration (59%), and on disclosing emissions from use of their products they sell (77%).

On Carbon Performance, nine auto manufacturers (41%) are now projected to align with the Paris Pledges in 2030. This is a 12% improvement on last year’s assessment. Indeed, the average fleet emissions intensity is currently falling at a rate of 2-2.5% per year based on 2016-2018 data.

Only two car companies (Daimler & Tesla) are projected to align with a path to keep global warming to 2°C or below.


The average climate Management Quality score of airlines has improved by over 8% since Spring 2019; but the airline sector’s Carbon Performance remains the second worst in the TPI database, ahead of only oil & gas in terms of alignment with Paris benchmarks by 2030.

Almost 60%of the 22 airlines assessed have emissions-reduction targets that align with the Paris Pledges in 2020. However, beyond 2020 most airline targets are based on net emissions, including offsetting. TPI discounts these net emissions targets due to the uncertainty in quantifying them. (A recent European Commission study of carbon offsets found that 85% of the offset projects under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) failed in the objective of reducing emissions).

As these net targets are discounted, only two airlines (Easyjet and Wizz Air) are aligned with any of the benchmarks by 2030. Only Wizz Air is aligned with a benchmark to keep warming to 2°C or below.

Professor Simon Dietz, Co-Director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and lead author of the report said:

“Airlines’ offsetting plans are too opaque at present. The IEA has made it clear that airlines’ own operational emissions must fall in order to achieve climate targets, so reduction strategies that rely too heavily on offsetting are not credible. Airlines that set net emission reduction targets need to provide more information on how much their gross emissions will fall and how much will depend on offsets.”

Carola van Lamoen, Head Active Ownership, Robeco Asset Management said:

“Transport is a critical sector to decarbonize. TPI’s assessment finds that corporate boards in the transport sector are showing an increased level of awareness. But it is also clear that more decisive action is needed to align their long-term strategy to a low-carbon future. This is particularly the case for road transportation, where technical solutions are available, but only two out of 22 car manufacturers have aligned their strategies with a 2 degrees or below scenario. This exposes investors to significant financial risk, since regulators are increasingly adopting policies supporting the shift towards cleaner transportation. This research identifies areas where constructive investor engagement can strengthen companies’ commitments”.

Sea News Feature, December 5

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra