The lifetime carbon emissions of a car are so high that investing in car companies funds almost as much carbon per euro as investing in an oil firm, according to a study by environmental NGO Transport & Environment released on Wednesday.
A million euros invested in oil giants Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil finances around 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, while the same amount finances on average 4,500 tonnes in the car sector, the NGO's calculations based on 2020 data showed.
Researchers used data provided by the world's nine largest car companies on the average tonnes of carbon emitted from their vehicles through their lifetimes, and the size and makeup of their fleets, compared to their market capitalisation.
The findings have important ramifications for financial institutions in the European Union which will soon be expected to disclose the lifetime emissions - known as Scope 3 - of their investments under new EU rules coming into force in 2023.
So far, financial institutions are only obliged to disclose so-called Scope 1 and 2 emissions of their investments, referring to those generated in the production process.
But for cars, 98% of emissions are generated over the lifetime of the product from the fuel used to power the vehicle, as shown by carmakers' own calculations available in sustainability reports.
Adding Scope 3 into the mix will make car stocks look far dirtier at a time when investors are coming under growing pressure to prove the environmental credential of their investments, the researchers warn.