• Atmospheric CO2 /Parts per Million /Annual Averages /Data Source: noaa.gov

  • 1980338.91ppm

  • 1981340.11ppm

  • 1982340.86ppm

  • 1983342.53ppm

  • 1984344.07ppm

  • 1985345.54ppm

  • 1986346.97ppm

  • 1987348.68ppm

  • 1988351.16ppm

  • 1989352.78ppm

  • 1990354.05ppm

  • 1991355.39ppm

  • 1992356.1ppm

  • 1993356.83ppm

  • 1994358.33ppm

  • 1995360.18ppm

  • 1996361.93ppm

  • 1997363.04ppm

  • 1998365.7ppm

  • 1999367.8ppm

  • 2000368.97ppm

  • 2001370.57ppm

  • 2002372.59ppm

  • 2003375.14ppm

  • 2004376.96ppm

  • 2005378.97ppm

  • 2006381.13ppm

  • 2007382.9ppm

  • 2008385.01ppm

  • 2009386.5ppm

  • 2010388.76ppm

  • 2011390.63ppm

  • 2012392.65ppm

  • 2013395.39ppm

  • 2014397.34ppm

  • 2015399.65ppm

  • 2016403.09ppm

  • 2017405.22ppm

  • 2018407.62ppm

  • 2019410.07ppm

  • 2020412.44ppm

  • 2021414.72ppm

  • 2022418.56ppm

  • 2023421.08ppm

News & Views

NZI Annual Conference: engagement with BP and Shell is ‘a lost cause’

At Net Zero Investor’s second Annual Conference at the London Stock Exchange asset owners debated about the best ways to successfully engage with hard-to-abate sectors.

Oil and gas supermajors BP and Shell are not “honest actors” in terms of real-world decarbonisation, making engagement with them “a lost cause”, investors have been told.

Speaking at Net Zero Investor’s Annual Conference in London this week, Julius Pursaill, strategic advisor at Cushon, outlined that the £1.7bn pension fund has set investment exclusions for Shell and BP due to their failure to decarbonise.

Pursaill told delegates that Cushon has set an 80% scope 1 and 2 emissions reduction target by 2030 and has so far delivered 65% immediate decarbonisation across its portfolio. The pension fund did this without materially reducing its level of diversification, but it did involve a 90% underweight to oil and gas which was hedged with some forestry exposure, he explained.

He told delegates that Cushon still holds shares with some oil and gas companies where it thinks “engagement has made a difference” and they have credible transition plans, but highlighted that the fund “doesn’t hold Shell and BP because I think they are a lost cause”.

“I don't think they're honest actors. I think they are honest actors and as much as they are focused on pumping as much oil as they can and maximising shareholder returns. This is arguably what they should be doing in the short term, but I don’t think they are honest actors in terms of real-world decarbonisation, so we exclude them,” Pursaill told attendees.

However, Pursaill did reiterate to delegates that divestment is not a “solution” to real-world decarbonisation but highlighted that engagement without the “stick” of divestment at the end “risks being ineffective”.


I don't think Shell and BP are honest actors. I think they are honest actors as much as they are focused on pumping as much oil as they can and maximising shareholder returns.

Julius Pursaill, strategic advisor, Cushon.

Destructive engagement

He also warned that when engaging with companies, investors need to be careful about strategies that are “destructive to real-world decarbonisation”.

“There are case studies where companies have been pressured [through engagement] to reduce their carbon intensity and they've sold off their core businesses to an Eastern European venture capital fund, which is not going to solve real-world decarbonisation,” Pursaill said.

Coming off this point, Nick Spooner, company strategist at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, highlighted that during engagement investors need to focus on how companies are reporting their emissions.

Spooner told delegates that many companies are not reporting in line with the greenhouse gas protocol, which requires them to “rebase” their emissions when buying or selling certain assets or when the nature of their business changes.

“So, what we see is that many companies have decarbonisation targets and they're hitting them based off of strategies which are predicated on divestment, and this is obviously very misleading at a systemic level,” he explained.

For instance, BP has plans to reduce its absolute scope three emissions, “which is something we really need to see”. However, they aren’t reporting in line with the greenhouse gas protocol, “so all of the emission reductions that they’re targeting is based on a divestment schedule”, Spooner said.

“We need to be focusing on how these companies are reducing their emissions rather than divesting or disposing of those emissions,” Spooner stressed.


We believe that the majority of action can only happen by staying invested in these companies and by actually engaging with the companies we have in our portfolio.

Valeria Piani, head of stewardship, Phoenix Group.

‘Action only happens through engagement’

However, others at the conference, such as Valeria Piani, head of stewardship at the Phoenix Group, and Honor Fell, sustainable investment officer at the University of Cambridge Investment Management (UCIM), had a more optimistic view about the impact engagement can have on reducing real-world emissions.

Piani told delegates that the £260bn UK-based insurance provider is currently covering 70% of its climate emissions through engagement. She highlighted that the Phoenix Group engages with 25 companies making up 40% of its climate emissions in-house, with its managers conducting engagement with companies that make up the remaining 30%.

She said: “We believe that the majority of action can only happen by staying invested in these companies and by actually engaging with the companies we have in our portfolio.”

Unlike the Pheonix group, Fell outlined that UCIM, the manager of the £4bn Cambridge University Endowment Fund, outsources all of its voting activity to asset managers. UCIM believes closely monitoring external asset manager voting and engagement outcomes is an important step to fulfilling the team’s ambition to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2038.

“We do believe as a team that engagement is where we can have the most impact. And for us, engagement is primarily about engaging with our fund managers, focussing not only on the energy sector but how we decarbonise hard to abate sectors and the economy as a whole,” she added.

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