Funds demand science-based emissions targets from 1,600 firms

FILE PHOTO: Environmental activists hold a rally demanding actions against climate change in Kyiv
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By Simon Jessop

LONDON (Reuters) -Funds managing nearly $30 trillion in assets called on Wednesday for 1,600 of the world's most polluting companies to set science-based emissions reduction targets as a matter of urgency.

The 220 investors, including Fidelity International and Amundi, said they had written to CEOs of companies they invest in demanding targets that would help to cap global warming at no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2050.

Their call comes just over a month before world leaders meet in Britain for the latest round of global climate talks, with all countries challenged to set tougher targets as the impact of climate change becomes more pronounced.

The group said in a statement that the companies in question collectively account for 11.9 gigatons of so-called Scope 1 and 2 emissions, those tied to their own operations, which totalled more than the European Union and United States combined.

It said Hyundai Motor Company, chemicals company BASF and German airline Lufthansa were among those approached.

A Lufthansa spokesperson pointed to the airline's commitment to be net zero by 2050, and halve its net carbon emissions and be carbon neutral in its ground operations by 2030.

A spokesperson for Hyundai referred to a Sept. 6 statement in which the company pledged to become carbon neutral by 2045, helped by increased sales of zero-emission vehicles.

Coordinated by non-profit disclosure platform CDP, the institutions said they wanted all the companies to set targets through the Science-Based Targets Initiative, an independent body that checks goals are robust.

BASF said in a statement a quality framework to compare corporate climate targets was important and the SBTi was one of many frameworks.

"At this time, SBTi has not defined a sector-specific framework that would be important for us to reflect the specific characteristics of the chemical industry. SBTi has expressed interest in including us in the development process and we are happy to work with them."

The group did not specify in its statement what if any action its signatories would take if companies did not do as asked, but as shareholders they can use their voting powers to attempt to force change if it is not forthcoming.

"As long-term investors seeking to allocate capital responsibly, we expect our portfolio companies to develop, commit to and execute on science-based emissions reduction plans aligned with the Paris Agreement," said Barnaby Wiener, head of sustainability and stewardship at MFS Investment Management.

(Reporting by Simon Jessop Editing by Alexander Smith, Mark Potter and Barbara Lewis)

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