This contrasts strongly with the UK's legislation on carbon emissions, under which the government has set some of the world's most rigorous carbon reduction targets, stretching to the 2020s and beyond, in an attempt to become a global leader in the low-carbon economy.
Leading British companies began to put in place carbon targets in the mid 2000s – for instance, HSBC was the first FTSE 100 company to announce its aim to be carbon-neutral in 2004, with several other companies quickly following the trend.
The majority of the FTSE 100 are not covered by legislation such as the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS), by which the most energy-intensive industries are awarded a quota of carbon permits determining how much they may emit, but they are almost all subject to other aspects of carbon regulation, such as the CRC – the carbon reduction commitment, which places companies in a league table of energy efficiency.
In addition, the UK's tough legislation on carbon is soon to include the recently agreed fourth carbon budget, by which carbon emissions will be halved by 2025 in relation to 1990 levels.
One of the success stories of the legislation is Kingfisher, the UK parent company of B&Q, whose CEO, Ian Cheshire, said the company's early embrace of rigid carbon goals has paid dividends. He said "Publishing definite targets and concrete objectives has helped to raise the bar. It's gone from a generic thing that people think is vaguely good to something measurable."
As well as carbon reduction targets, an increasing number of companies are also setting targets on other aspects of their environmental performance. About a quarter of FTSE 100 companies have now waste reduction targets, and about 22% have set targets to be more efficient in their use of water, according to the Carbon Trust research.
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