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The Responsibilities of Carbon Major Companies: Are They (and Is the Law) Doing Enough?

  • Lisa Benjamin (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Transnational carbon major companies are responsible for over 30% of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions and exert tremendous influence over future global climate trajectories. Yet, they are not governed through top-down, stringent emissions limits, but are instead regulated largely by disclosure-only domestic requirements and market-based or voluntary corporate social responsibility mechanisms. Through an examination of the requirements of domestic laws such as the United Kingdom (UK) Climate Change Act 2008 and the UK Energy Act 2013, as well as the environmental and sustainability reports produced under the UK Companies Act 2006 (Strategic Report and Directors’ Report) Regulations 2013, this article analyzes the regulatory requirements placed on carbon majors, and the climate change pledges and emissions of five UK-based carbon majors: BP, Royal Dutch Shell, BG Group, National Grid, and Centrica. The article concludes that the efforts to curb emissions in these carbon major entities are being subverted by company law, company theory and commercial norms such as shareholder wealth maximization.

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Footnotes
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The author would like to thank Stelios Andreadakis, Horace Yeung and Daniel Attenborough as well as the participants at ‘The Road to Paris: Multidimensional Action to Address Climate Change’, a works-in-progress workshop of the International Environmental Law Interest Group of the American Society of International Law (ASIL) and the University of Minnesota Energy Transition Lab, 27–28 Oct. 2015, Minneapolis, MN (United States (US)) for their comments and, in particular, Hari Osofsky and Jacqueline Peel. The author would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers of TEL for their comments and suggestions. Any errors remain those of the author.

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References
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J. Grinyer , A. Russell & D. Collison , ‘Evidence of Managerial Short-termism in the UK’ (1998) 9(1) British Journal of Management, pp. 1322

S. Worthington , ‘Reforming Directors Duties’ (2001) 64(3) The Modern Law Review pp. 439458

D. Attenborough , ‘Giving Purpose to the Corporate Purpose Debate: An Equitable Maximization and Viability Principle’ (2011) 32(1) Legal Studies, pp. 434

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Transnational Environmental Law
  • ISSN: 2047-1025
  • EISSN: 2047-1033
  • URL: /core/journals/transnational-environmental-law
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