New analysis released by climate change NGO Sandbag has revealed that the UK’s richest resident, Lakshmi Mittal, CEO and major shareholder of the steel giant ArcelorMittal, could make over £1 billion between now and 2012 from his company’s participation in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme.
ArcelorMittal has over 14 million emissions permits that it does not need in 2008, a figure which Sandbag estimates will rise to 80 million by 2012 making it by far the biggest beneficiary of the scheme across the EU.
Sandbag has written to CEO Laksmi Mittal urging him to commit to cancelling his company’s unneeded emissions permits in what would be the largest act of climate philanthropy on record. If cancelled the 80 million surplus permits would prevent 80 million tonnes worth of pollution going into the world’s atmosphere, equivalent to the annual emissions of Denmark, the country where critical climate change talks are just commencing. Such an act would also come close to matching the cuts required the UK’s whole carbon budget between now and 2012.
Anna Pearson, Head of Policy at Sandbag commented: “ArcelorMittal received its emissions permits for free and could choose to cancel them; we’re calling on them to trade in the windfall profits they could make, for positive action on climate change. This would set an example to not only business and industry worldwide but to our global leaders set to meet in Copenhagen in the coming fortnight.
“European politicians need to sign up to more ambitious targets and tougher limits on pollution in Europe and under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme so that in future, industrial companies like ArcelorMittal actually have to cut their emissions rather than being handed windfall profits. The carbon market will only deliver what politicians ask it to, so it’s up to our leaders to make it tougher and to enable it to make a much greater contribution to tackling climate change.”
In her letter to Mittal, the Founder and Director of Sandbag, Bryony Worthington, explains: “I am writing to you as the world’s leading steel CEO and in your capacity as a philanthropic supporter of causes you believe in. I am the founder of a not for profit organisation Sandbag which works specifically on the potential of the European carbon market to deliver a real and lasting impact on climate change. It is my belief that whilst the carbon market may be considered a significant risk to your business, it also offers within its current workings the opportunity for you to become a world leader in climate philanthropy.
“I am sure you are used to having parallels drawn between your own story of success and that of Andrew Carnegie a century ago. Despite his inspiring business acumen in building the Carnegie steel empire, he is now far more renowned for his philanthropy aimed at tackling poor education and illiteracy: key challenges of his time. Today Bill Gates is perhaps equally famous for his work to tackle malaria, HIV and international poverty but he has no equivalent in the field of climate change. We strongly believe that you have the power to take on this mantle.
“We have studied the EU emissions trading scheme in detail and have found that ArcelorMittal holds a great deal of power within the market through its control of a sizeable portion of the supply of emissions permits. As you will know, last year, in aggregate, your company held more permits than were required to cover emissions from your plant. We recognise that the current recession is partly to blame for emissions from your plant being below your allocations of permits. We also recognise your efforts to improve the energy efficiency of your operations leading to your company's 20% reduction in carbon footprint on 1990 levels and your other CSR work.
Nevertheless the scale of surplus permits your company controls is so much greater than any other participant in the EU emissions trading scheme it has prompted us to write to you.
“We estimate that you have around 14 million unused emissions permits for the year 2008, and that by the end of 2012 you could hold up to 80 million permits, equivalent to the annual emissions of Denmark. Whilst I’m sure your first instinct will be to monetise these permits to invest in your business but we urge you to consider an alternative strategy. Each permit represents permission for a tonne of carbon to be polluted, a tonne which will stay in the atmosphere for around 1000 years.
“But permits do not have to be used or sold; they can of course be cancelled with the tonnes of carbon never entering the atmosphere. If ArcelorMittal were to commit to cancel its surplus permits, it would be an unprecedented act of climate philanthropy and one which would show huge leadership not only within industry, but also to the world's politicians. Indeed, your commitment would nearly match that of the whole UK Government which has promised to cut emissions by around 100 million tonnes between 2008 and 2012, a target regarded as one of the toughest in Europe. And whilst the permits undeniably have huge monetary value, they were received for free making the donation, in theory, extremely cost effective.
“We passionately believe that you are in a unique position as a market participant but also as an individual philanthropist to play a key role in tackling the climate change with a commitment would leave a lasting legacy for future generations. We will of course be contacting other companies with surplus permits in the ETS, but as the largest player in this field it was our wish to highlight our views to you first. We would value the opportunity to meet with you personally and with your team to discuss in more detail this and other philanthropic options available to you through your involvement in the carbon market.”