30 among the world’s largest investors with $5 trillion assets under management have collectively agreed on concrete portfolio decarbonization targets that follow the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5 °C scenario for the next five years.
UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance members will implement deep greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions in the 16% to 29% range by 2025 from 2019, amid likely rising global emissions in the same period.
Published for public consultation, the 2025 Target Setting Protocol lays out plans for this substantial decoupling of asset owners’ portfolio GHG emissions from the global economy. The Protocol is integral to coherent and comprehensive plans to reduce emissions, increase investment in the net-zero emissions transition and enhance influence on markets and government policies.
With this Protocol, Alliance members are sounding a very loud signal to the thousands of companies they own that deep emissions cuts are required. They will work with those willing to adjust their business models, and do not wish to engage in a divestment exercise. In order for their efforts to be met with success, substantial government action is required.
In the first quarter of 2021, individual Alliance members will set their own portfolio targets fromdifferent starting points with respect to the level of carbon emissions currently contained within their portfolios. Several Alliance members will set large reduction targets, while others have already made substantial progress in their journey to net-zero, therefore the reductions required for their portfolios will be at the lower end of the range, while for some a lower 2025 target may reflect geographic or policy constraint that require them to decarbonize more slowly in early years.
The Protocol was constructed to allow Alliance members to employ the combination of approaches that best supports their unique decarbonisation and engagement strategies and acknowledges their different carbon levels as of today. Each member is unique and as such may identify unique levers that exist within their institutions for accelerating decarbonisation. They also have different investment scopes, strategies, internal governance structures and levels of exposure to certain high-emitting sectors
In this way the Alliance members aim to have “transparent, and unique” targets, which suit individual institutions, but which can also be aggregated such that progress for individual members and for the Alliance as a whole can be tracked and reported transparently.
The first steps towards Alliance commitments are twofold: transitioning investment portfolios to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050; and achieving this through advocating for, and engaging on corporate action, as well as public policies, for the low-carbon transition of economic sectors in line with science and under consideration of social impacts. Defining net-zero pathways must take both goals into account, while also considering implications for a just transition.
Engagement with portfolio companies is a core component to assure that not only the Alliance members’ portfolios transition to net-zero, but that the Alliance members also have an impact on the real economy. Although decarbonization of portfolios could be easily achieved by selling carbon intensive investments, it is highly questionable if such actions alone would have a positive impact on the real economy. Additionally, it might undermine Alliance members ability to engage with these corporate to effect reductions in the real economy.
“Alliance members start out by changing themselves and then reach out to various companies to work on the change of their businesses” said Günther Thallinger, Alliance Chair and Member of the Board of Management, Allianz SE.
“Reaching net-zero is not simply reducing emissions and carrying on with the business models of today. There are profound changes and opportunities that will come from the net-zero economy, we see new business opportunities and strong wins for those who are ready to lead,” he adds.
Eric Usher, Head of UNEP FI, said: “According to the UNEP Emissions Gap Report, every year of postponed emissions peak means that deeper and faster cuts will be required. The Target-Setting Protocol represents world-leading progress on the required emissions reductions from some of the biggest investors in the world.”
“Establishing firm interim portfolio decarbonization targets is key to meeting the Paris climate commitments. From a membership of 12 asset owners at launch over a year ago, to 30 and counting, means the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, a joint initiative of the PRI and UNEP FI, can have a huge impact on the way companies manage the carbon footprint of their operations” said Fiona Reynolds, CEO of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).