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Has Exxon Mobil turned over a new, green leaf?

News that Exxon Mobil will spend $3bn in the next five years on a new low-carbon business unit came after a flurry of announcements signalling that America’s biggest fossil fuel producer has finally accepted that it may need to change course in the face of climate change.

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News that Exxon Mobil will spend $3bn in the next five years on a new low-carbon business unit came after a flurry of announcements signalling that America’s biggest fossil fuel producer has finally accepted that it may need to change course in the face of climate change.

Has Exxon Mobil turned over a new, green leaf?

It remains to be seen whether it will be enough to silence Exxon’s legion of critics, including the Attorney General of Connecticut, who in September filed the latest of a wave of lawsuits from US states and cities accusing Exxon Mobil of “an ongoing, systematic campaign of lies and deception” to discredit the scientific consensus about human-induced climate change, despite knowing since the 1970s that fossil fuel production caused global warming.

As late as October, Exxon Mobil’s CEO Darren Woods dismissed the suggestion that climate change concerns posed long-term risk to his industry, reassuring staff that there would be “an ongoing need for the products we produced.”

On the face of it heightened investor pressure from activist investor Engine No 1, backed by heavyweight institutions like the Church Commissioners for England and US hedge fund DE Shaw, have forced Exxon to move into line with US number 2 producer Chevron, with which it is rumoured to be in merger talks.

Before Christmas the Irving, Texas oil major announced a five year programme committing to cut CO2 emissions from its upstream production by 15-20% by 2025, and decrease emissions of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas, by 40-50% – though this is far lower than the 65% cut in methane emissions by 2025 being proposed by the Clean Air Task Force and under consideration by the Biden administration.

Like Chevron, Exxon’s new targets apply only to Exxon’s scope 1 and 2 emissions, from its own operations, as set out in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard. But given that its products fuel the world economy, scopes 1 and 2 account for less than 20% of an oil company’s total emissions.

Scope 3, or the impact of its products in use, accounts for the rest. While Exxon recently announced it would begin reporting on its Scope 3 emissions this year, US producers lag far behind European energy majors Royal Dutch Shell, BP, and Total, which last year signed up to in committing to net-zero emissions by 2050 across all three scopes.

Royal Dutch Shell coloured in its net-zero plans for investors in February, announcing that it was cutting back oil production by 1-2% a year and speeding up its timeline to reduce the net carbon intensity of each unit of energy it produces. By 2035 this will be 45% less than 2016, compared to 30% previously, and 100% by mid-century, from 65%.

The oil major will increase investment in renewables, including biofuels and hydrogen, build out its EV charging services network, and boost carbon capture and storage to store an additional 25m tonnes a year by 2035. More controversially, it is also planning a major investment in offsetting, with a target to offset 120m tonnes of its customers emissions by 2030.

Shell’s green energy renewable energy targets aren’t as ambitious as those of BP and Total, which earlier in February announced plans to rebrand itself as TotalEnergies as it transforms into a broad energy company over the next decade.

BP, meanwhile, plans to grow its renewable output 20-fold, while slashing oil output by 40% by 2030, a far more decisive shift than Shell’s 1-2% per year.

Still, in an industry first, shareholders will have an advisory vote on Shell’s transition plan at this year’s general meeting, while the pay of more than 16,500 staff, not just top executives, will be linked to targets to reduce the carbon intensity of its energy products.

It is not just the European energy majors that are far ahead. The Science-based Targets initiative, a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), reported in January that 34% of all European companies with the greatest climate impact have committed to, or set, targets in line with science to cut CO2 emissions, in contrast to just 16% in North America and 12% in Asia.

But are even European companies doing enough to bend the curve on dangerous climate change?

As we reported in the December issue of The Ethical Corporation, until later this year, when the SBTi will publish a new global standard, there has been no standardised mechanism for third-party monitoring and verification, or for companies to report transparently on how they are actually performing against their targets. And even the SBTi does not yet provide rules on reducing scope 3 emissions.

Meanwhile, there has been a proliferation of many more companies setting net-zero targets with no grounding in science, with a major chasm opening between net-zero ambition and concrete action.

According to research by Signal Climate Analytics, about one-third of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions can be tied to the direct and indirect business activities of just 250 companies, which include the world’s biggest oil and gas companies, along with companies in the energy-intensive transport, mining, metals, and manufacturing and consumer goods sectors.

That number excludes privately held and state-owned companies, for which it is much more difficult to obtain high quality, verifiable data. But the direct and indirect emissions of the G250 and their value chains are huge, and they wield enormous power over sector peers, regulatory frameworks and even consumer attitudes about climate change.

In short, where these businesses are going with their treatment of our planet, we are all going.

Over the course of 2021 Reuters and Signal will be delving into the extent to which those 250 companies are taking action to bring their operations in line with 1.5C pathway, focusing on 25 companies per month.

Given the incompleteness of the data, we will list them in their sectors alphabetically, making it easier to draw comparisons between companies within sectors on their climate risk performance, and to answer two key questions: how transparent are they about their total GHG emissions and related environmental impacts, and are they decarbonising fast enough to avoid the worst consequences of an over-heated planet?

The story told by the related chart, looking at the first 25 companies, is not encouraging, given that they alone account for approximately 10% of annual human-caused emissions.

The energy sector dominates, accounting for 17 of the 25, but only three, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total, having set a Science Based Target to reduce their emissions. Another nine are doing the bare minimum by admitting that climate change is an important risk, or by disclosing only emission from their own operations.

In other sectors, Thyssenkrupp, Vale, and VW are disclosing plans, although not always including all scopes, to adopt 1.5C aligned science-based targets, showing they are on a path to systematically transform their core products, processes ‒ and in some cases business models ‒ with solutions that reduce or eliminate harmful environmental or climate change impacts.

Among them is U.S.-based diesel-engine manufacturer Cummins, a signatory to the SBTi’s Business Ambition for 1.5C coalition, which has investing meaningfully in a new power segment, combining the company’s electrified powertrains, fuel cells and hydrogen production technology. Over the last three reporting years, GHG emissions across all scopes fell 7% while revenue increased, decoupled from emissions, by 15%. The company also reported record profitability in 2019.

This will be a pivotal year on the climate scene, as big carbon is pushed harder than ever to become better for our global economy and planet. The new Biden administration will bring the United States back to the regulatory discussion, and market signals are likely to continue to increase both the transition opportunity for innovators, and the risk for laggards.

Given this push, many expect the gulf between European companies and in the US on climate risk to narrow, with many more Americans firms among those setting zero-carbon targets in the run-up to the critical COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November.

As the year progresses, Reuters and Signal Climate Analytics will be updating both the transparency and performance data on our G250 list. Given the urgency of action between now and 2030, we hope to help make a meaningful contribution to revealing where firms are actually turning over a new green leaf, and how the underlying business of carbon intensive industry is transforming.”

Opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which, under the Trust Principles, is committed to integrity, independence, and freedom from bias. Reuters Professional is owned by Thomson Reuters. Tim Nixon and David Lubin, of Signal Climate Analytics, contributed to this article.

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/events-exxon-idUSMTZSPDEH3NFKFEUF

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Reuters

Chipmaker TSMC says too early to say on Germany expansion

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) (2330.TW) said on Monday that it was too early to say whether it will build factories in Germany and that talks were in early stages, as the EU seeks to reduce chip imports amid a supply shortage.

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The logo of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) is pictured at its headquarters, in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Jan. 19, 2021. REUTERS/Ann Wang

TAIPEI, July 26 (Reuters) – Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) (2330.TW) said on Monday that it was too early to say whether it will build factories in Germany and that talks were in early stages, as the EU seeks to reduce chip imports amid a supply shortage.

The European Commission had held discussions with global chip giants, including Intel (INTC.O) and TSMC, as the EU seeks to boost semiconductor production and shield itself from shocks in the global supply chain. read more

Taiwan and TSMC, the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer, have become central in efforts to resolve the pandemic-induced chip shortage that has forced automakers to cut production and hurt manufacturers of smartphones, laptops and even appliances.

“We are currently doing reviews on Germany seriously, but it’s still in very early stages,” TSMC chairman Mark Liu told an annual shareholder meeting when asked about building chip fabrication plants in the EU country.

“We continue to communicate with our major clients in Germany to see whether this is most important and effective for our clients,” he said. “It’s too early to say.”

TSMC signalled in July plans to build new factories in the United States and Japan amid concern over the concentration of chipmaking capability in Taiwan, which produces most of the world’s most advanced chips and is geographically close to political rival China. read more

On TSMC’s $12 billion factory in the U.S. state of Arizona, Liu said the expansion would support client demand, especially in infrastructure and national security.

“Clients are the backing of our global expansion. We will move very cautiously,” Liu said, adding that the company’s customers would help share costs of overseas operations.

TSMC announced this year plans to invest $100 billion over the next three years to increase capacity, riding on what it called a “multiple years of growth opportunities”, as the COVID-19 pandemic and new technologies drove global demand for advanced chips.

Reporting By Yimou Lee. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Taiwan and TSMC, the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer, have become central in efforts to resolve the pandemic-induced chip shortage that has forced automakers to cut production and hurt manufacturers of smartphones, laptops and even appliances.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/technology/chipmaker-tsmc-says-too-early-say-germany-expansion-2021-07-26/

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EXCLUSIVE India watchdog accuses Amazon of concealing facts in deal for Future Group unit

India’s antitrust regulator has accused Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) of concealing facts and making false submissions when it sought approval for a 2019 investment in a Future Group unit, a letter to the U.S. e-commerce giant seen by Reuters showed.

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A man walks past an Amazon logo outside the company’s collection point in Mumbai, India, March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

  • India antitrust watchdog threatens Amazon with fine, action
  • Amazon has yet to respond to antitrust body’s notice -source
  • CCI says Amazon made different statements at other legal forums

NEW DELHI, July 22 (Reuters) – India’s antitrust regulator has accused Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) of concealing facts and making false submissions when it sought approval for a 2019 investment in a Future Group unit, a letter to the U.S. e-commerce giant seen by Reuters showed.

The letter complicates Amazon’s bitter legal battle with Future Group over the Indian’s firm’s decision to sell its retail assets to Reliance Industries (RELI.NS) – a matter that is now before India’s Supreme Court.

Amazon has argued that terms agreed upon in its 2019 deal to pay $192 million for a 49% stake in Future’s gift voucher unit prevent its parent, Future Group, from selling its Future Retail Ltd (FRTL.NS) business to Reliance.

In the letter dated June 4, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) said Amazon hid factual aspects of the transaction by not revealing its strategic interest in Future Retail when it sought approval for the 2019 deal.

“The representations and conduct of Amazon before the Commission amounts to misrepresentation, making false statement and suppression or/and concealment of material facts,” the letter said. It also noted that its review of the submissions made had been prompted by a complaint from Future Group.

In the four-page letter, a so-called ‘show cause notice’, the CCI asked Amazon why it should not take action and penalise the company for providing false information.

Amazon has yet to respond, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter who declined to be identified as the letter has not been made public.

Amazon said in a statement to Reuters it had received a letter, was committed to complying with India’s laws and would extend its full cooperation to the CCI.

“We are confident that we will be able to address the CCI’s concerns,” it said.

Representatives for Future and the CCI did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Vaibhav Choukse, a competition law specialist and partner at J. Sagar Associates, said it was rare for the CCI to issue such a notice and that if the CCI was not satisfied by Amazon’s response, it could lead to a fine and even a review of the deal.

“The CCI has wide powers which includes directions to re-file the approval application and even revoke the approval under exceptional circumstances,” Choukse said.

The CCI’s 2019 approval order states its decision “shall stand revoked if, at any time, the information provided” is found to be incorrect.

Shares in Future Retail jumped after Reuters published details of the letter, extending gains to be up nearly 5% in Thursday afternoon trade.

SUBMISSIONS COMPARED

The dispute over Future Retail, which has more than 1,500 supermarket and other outlets, is the most hostile flashpoint between Jeff Bezos’ Amazon and Reliance, run by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, as they try to gain the upper hand in winning over the country’s consumers.

Amazon also has a host of other challenges in India, a key growth market where it has committed $6.5 billion in investments, including a separate CCI probe into alleged practices that small businesses say have hurt them. read more

In addition, it faces the prospect of more regulations that would restrict the sale of private labels and would prohibit the U.S. firm from allowing its affiliates to list products on its website. read more

The CCI letter compared three sets of submissions Amazon made to it in 2019 with submissions made later to other legal forums, saying they were “contradictory.”

In particular, it said Amazon had explained its interest in investing in Future’s coupon unit as one that would address gaps in India’s payments industry. But the letter stated Amazon had disclosed in other legal forums that the foundation of its relationship with Future Coupon was certain special rights it obtained over Future Retail.

“Amazon has concealed its strategic interest” in Future Retail, the letter said, adding: “Such interest and the purpose of the combination … was not disclosed to the Commission despite specific requirements.”

The CCI also objected to one section of a submission where Amazon had told the regulator it had nothing to do with one particular legal agreement that two Future entities had signed between themselves days ahead of its 2019 deal. But Amazon later claimed before an arbitrator that the agreement was an “integrated part” of the transaction, the letter said.

Reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Additional reporting by Abhirup Roy; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Amazon has argued that terms agreed upon in its 2019 deal to pay $192 million for a 49% stake in Future’s gift voucher unit prevent its parent, Future Group, from selling its Future Retail Ltd (FRTL.NS) business to Reliance.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/technology/exclusive-india-watchdog-accuses-amazon-concealing-facts-deal-future-group-unit-2021-07-22/

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EXCLUSIVE HK’s Apple Daily to shut within days, says Jimmy Lai adviser

Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities froze the company’s assets under a national security law, an adviser to jailed owner Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.

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  • Adviser says impossible to conduct banking in financial hub
  • Two executives charged under security law denied bail
  • Newspaper could cease publication on Saturday – memo

HONG KONG, June 21 (Reuters) – Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities froze the company’s assets under a national security law, an adviser to jailed owner Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.

The closure of Apple Daily would undermine the former British colony’s reputation as an open and free society and send a warning to other companies that could be accused of colluding with a foreign country, media advocacy groups said.

Next Digital (0282.HK), publisher of the top-selling 26-year-old newspaper, would stop publication on June 26 if a board meeting on Friday decided to halt operations, an internal memo seen by Reuters showed.

“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month. It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days,” the adviser, Mark Simon, said by telephone from the United States.

Vendors had tried to put money into the company’s bank accounts but have been rejected, he said.

Another senior company source with direct knowledge of the matter said the freezing of the firm’s core assets – before any trial or due legal process proved any criminality – had made it impossible to pay wages or even electricity bills.

CHOKED ‘TO DEATH’

“This is an extraordinary thing for a place that prides itself on (being) a global financial center, that you haven’t even filed charges against people and yet you’ve decided you’re going to try to … choke this company to death.”

Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said that media freedoms are respected but are not absolute.

Apple Daily management could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The newspaper said on Sunday the freezing of its assets had left it with cash for “a few weeks” for normal operations. read more

Chief Editor Ryan Law, 47, and Chief Executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were denied bail on Saturday after being charged with conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country.

Three other executives were arrested on Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices, drawing condemnation from Western countries, global rights groups and the U.N. spokesperson for human rights.

Those three are still under investigation but were released with bail.

Security Secretary John Lee told a news conference on Thursday the police operation against the Apple Daily was aimed at those who use reporting as a “tool” to endanger national security and did not target the media industry as a whole.

Hong Kong’s Security Bureau said it would not comment given ongoing legal proceedings and any application related to the frozen property would be handled according to the law.

China’s Liaison Office in the city did not respond to requests for comment.

A supporter holds a copy of Apple Daily newspaper during a court hearing outside West Magistrates’ Courts, after police charge two executives of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper over the national security law, in Hong Kong, China, June 19, 2021. REUTERS/Lam Yik

‘WE CAN’T BANK’

In May, Reuters reported exclusively that Hong Kong’s security chief had sent letters to tycoon Lai and branches of HSBC (HSBA.L) and Citibank (C.N) threatening up to seven years’ jail for any dealings with the billionaire’s accounts in the city. read more

A Hong Kong-based spokesperson for Citibank said at the time the bank did not comment on individual client accounts. HSBC declined to comment.Authorities are also prosecuting three companies related to Apple Daily for alleged collusion with a foreign country and have frozen HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of their assets.

Simon told Reuters it had now become impossible to conduct banking operations in the global financial hub as authorities had “criminalised” any activities with the company’s accounts.

“We can’t bank. Some vendors tried to do that as a favour … and it was rejected.”

Reuters could not determine the banks where Apple Daily vendors had tried to deposit funds only to have their transactions rejected.

Rights group Amnesty International said on Twitter that this is “effectively a HK government ban of a newspaper.”

The paper has come under increasing pressure since owner and Beijing critic Lai, who is now in jail, was arrested under the national security law last August and has since had some of his assets frozen.

The senior company source with direct knowledge of the board’s discussions said an application had been made to the Security Bureau to ask Hong Kong security chief John Lee to unfreeze the assets to allow essential payments to staff and suppliers, setting a Friday deadline to respond.

Apple Daily said in an article on Sunday it might challenge the government in court if it refused. read more

The company has about 600 journalists, according to Simon.

The U.S.-based adviser said some reporters had received threatening phone calls from unknown sources.

“Our staff are now just worried about personal safety,” he said.

Police have said dozens of Apple Daily articles were suspected of violating the national security law, the first case in which authorities have cited media articles as potentially violating the legislation.

Simon and the source said their understanding was that about 100 articles were under scrutiny.

“After all this is said and done, the business community is going to look up and recognise that a man’s company was gutted and stolen by a communist regime in Hong Kong,” he said.

“That’s a big deal.”

Reporting by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Next Digital (0282.HK), publisher of the top-selling 26-year-old newspaper, would stop publication on June 26 if a board meeting on Friday decided to halt operations, an internal memo seen by Reuters showed.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/business/retail-consumer/exclusive-adviser-jailed-hk-tycoon-jimmy-lai-says-apple-daily-shut-within-days-2021-06-21/

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