More than 2,000 companies, worth more than $ 27 billion in market capitalization, already have or plan to set an internal carbon price within two years, according to environmental impact disclosure group CDP global.
Internal carbon prices – a cost per metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent – can be factored into capital spending or research and development costs by organizations as part of decision making.
The prices can be hypothetical, where no money is spent, but the company calculates an additional cost based on the carbon intensity of the investment, with the aim being to encourage low carbon spending. Some companies, including Microsoft, require departments to “pay” internal fees based on the emissions they generate.
“What you’re trying to do is trigger a different investment decision,” said Nicolette Bartlett, CDP’s global director of climate change. Depending on the price, what it covers, and how much importance the company places on the calculation, it may or may not be very influential.
The fees are likely to be “the most influential” because they represent an internal “tax”, she added.
The CDP said the number of companies that had factored the cost of carbon into their business plans, or planned to do so within two years, had increased by 80% in five years. They included automaker Volvo, leading oil company Shell and retailer Next, and 226 of the top 500 companies by market value in the FTSE Global All Cap Index.
The median internal carbon price reported to CDP by companies in 2020 was $ 25 per metric tonne of CO2 equivalent. That’s considerably lower than the current price of allowances traded under the EU’s Emissions Trading System, which reached a record high of over $ 40 this year.
But Bartlett said the emphasis was too much on the price itself, rather than “the influence it has on decision-making.”
“The strategy of companies in this regard is more important than the number they use.” A high carbon price was not guaranteed to effect change, she added.
Companies that anticipated a regulatory carbon price were more likely to have set a price, CDP found. But many companies likely to be affected by the regulation still weren’t pricing the carbon issue.
Some EU companies in particular “potentially underestimate the speed of change this system is undergoing,” Bartlett said.