The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) won a Zayed Future Energy Prize - and US$1.5 million (Dh5.5m) - at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi this week. Paul Dickinson, the founder of the charity based in Britain discusses getting more companies in this region to reveal how much carbon they produce and how the CDP will spend its prize money.
The CDP receives data from companies and cities about how much carbon they emit and water they consume. How exactly does the process work?
We represented 500 investors in 2011 - big investors like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, HSBC. [Companies] get this letter from investors [that may say], "as investors with US$73 trillion, we'd like you to answer these questions". Companies such as ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart and BP have all been reporting on this data to us for about 10 years now. The data [then] goes out to thousands of Bloomberg terminals purchased by many investing institutions, and used by universities to see who's going to be the winners and losers of carbon [emitters].
What does CDP do with the data?
Because we're not-for-profit, that data is freely available on our website, www.cdproject.net. We see our main job as getting the data. The companies don't really report to us; they report to the world's markets through us.
How does CDP remain uninvolved with climate policy and regulation designed to encourage, or sometimes force, companies to reduce their emissions?
The [letter] we issue from investors to corporations is a formal legal communication. Companies are obligated not to give misleading information. Sixty-one per cent of the Global 500 [top companies] are getting their emissions externally verified [through] audits. We see that as a very positive trend; you wouldn't want to see a financial statement without external auditing.
How large is the CDP database?
It's huge. Seventy per cent of the S&P 500 report to us. In the EU, it's 91 per cent of the 300 largest companies. In South Africa, it's 81 of the 100 largest.
What about in the UAE?
It's a lot less, because the capital markets are less well developed. Of the three companies we've written to in the UAE, one has answered the question - and two have not. It's a very small sample, if you consider in South Africa we're writing to 100 companies. We're trying to work out who we may be able to partner with in the UAE, and even broader GCC, and perhaps write to 50 to 100 companies who will want to answer.
How will CDP spend the $1.5m?
As a not-for-profit organisation, we don't charge investors we represent, or the corporations. It is extremely difficult to fund 80 people worldwide, and the significant IT infrastructure. We are also focusing on increasing the scale of operations in India, China, Africa and Russia. So the prize will be spent on expanding our programmes in different regions.
Do you personally track carbon emissions?
I look at this quite carefully, actually. I live in London, where it's a bit cold. I've invested in insulation. I try not to travel too far on holiday, or eat too much meat - which is a big issue. CDP is a big fan of video-conferencing technology.