Car giants ‘driving with the brakes on’ towards climate goals, report warns

The world's 25 largest car manufacturers are collectively failing to act in line with the Paris Agreement in terms of both electrifying their portfolios and strengthening climate governance, new analysis from CDO and the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) has warned.

Car giants ‘driving with the brakes on’ towards climate goals, report warns

The benchmark measures progress against the Paris Agreement's 2C trajectory 

Published today (6 December), the analysis measures the work automotive companies are doing to electrify their portfolios, sell low-carbon vehicles, encourage modal shift among consumers and engage and comply with national and international climate legislation.

When all 25 companies analysed are looked at collectively, the picture is not positive across any of these fronts.

On electrifying portfolios and selling low-carbon vehicles such as electric (EV) and hybrid models, the analysis found that 21 of the 25 firms do offer at least one low-carbon vehicle – but that sales continue to account for only a small percentage of annual sales. For 16 of the listed companies, low-carbon vehicles accounted for less than 1% of 2017 sales. Only one firm – Groupe PSA – drew more than 10% of its 2017 sales from low-carbon vehicles.

As for encouraging modal shift, less than half (12) of the analysed companies were found to be taking “noticeable” efforts to market low-carbon vehicles of other modes of transport as a favourable option to petrol and diesel.

And, on climate agreement and legislation, CDP and WBA claim that most of the companies listed have links to trade associations which have previously lobbied against “effective and well-designed” climate regulations – or which continue to do so.

“There are some examples of companies in the assessment that are proactively advocating climate-positive positions relating both to policies and trade associations,” the analysis states.

“Ford, Groupe PSA, General Motors and Renault are moderately advanced in their climate policy engagement, having established more defined positions relating to “climate-friendly” policies and what actions to take if an affiliated trade association has climate-negative positions… However, the automotive industry as a whole does not show that [it is] engaging with policymakers to help mitigate climate change or systematically safeguarding against influencing climate-related regulations in a negative way, directly or indirectly.”

Using CDP and ADEME’s new ACT (Assessing low Carbon Transition) methodology, the analysis ranks the 25 companies across all of the above issues to provide them with an overall score.

The top five spaces in the league table produced using this method are taken by Groupe PSA, BMW, Renault, Volkswagen and Daimler.

The bottom of the league table, meanwhile, is dominated by Asian firms, with Dongfeng, SAIC, Suzuki, Subaru and Guangzhou accounting for the bottom five.

“The building blocks are in place for a shift to low-carbon vehicles and business models, but progress is being stalled by lack of market incentives and leadership,” CDP’s global technical director Tony Rooke said. “Governments and companies must work together to make low carbon vehicles accessible and desirable to consumers, that’s the critical step.”

The analysis comes as 4,000 world leaders, business representatives and other influential figures meet in Madrid for COP25. The UN is notably using this platform to push for new measures on carbon pricing and carbon offsetting, which it believes could spur low-carbon process in high-emitting sectors such as transport.

Sarah George  

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