Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Emissions estimations should embed a precautionary principle

To align their portfolios with the Paris Agreement, investors need to know the emissions of companies they invest in. Estimating these should start from a precautionary principle that disincentivizes free-riding and protects the planet.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Application of the precautionary principle to estimation of under- and non-reporting companies.


  1. 1.

    Dietz, S. et al. Nat. Clim. Change 8, 1072–1075 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Hoepner, A. G. F. et al. Handbook of Climate Transition Benchmarks, Paris-Aligned Benchmark and Benchmarks’ ESG Disclosure (TEG, 2019);

  3. 3.

    Hoepner, A. G. F. et al. TEG Final Report on Climate Benchmarks and Benchmarks’ ESG Disclosure (TEG, 2019);

  4. 4.

    Williams, B. & Chesworth, R. ESG’s turning point: four trends could accelerate flows in 2021. ETF Trends (2021).

  5. 5.

    Weber, C. et al. Nat. Clim. Change 8, 845–848 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Huppmann, D., Rogelj, J., Kriegler, E., Krey, V. & Riahi, K. Nat. Clim. Change 8, 1027–1030 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Busch, T., Johnson, M. & Pioch, T. J. Ind. Ecol. (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Rekker, S. A. C., Humphrey, J. E. & O’Brien, K. R. Bus. Soc. 60, 125–160 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Liesen, A., Hoepner, A. G., Patten, D. M. & Figge, F. Account. Audit. Account. J. 28, 1047–1074 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Hoepner, A. G. F. & Yu, P.-S. in Encyclopedia of Business and Professional Ethics (eds Poff, D. C. & Michalos, A. C.) 1–20 (Springer International Publishing, 2018).

  11. 11.

    Cojoianu, T. F. et al. Environ. Resour. Econ. (in the press).

  12. 12.

    Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development A/CONF.151/26 (United Nations General Assembly, 1992).

  13. 13.

    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change FCCC/INFORMAL/84 (United Nations, 1992).

  14. 14.

    Fisher, E. et al. (eds) Implementing the Precautionary Principle (Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2006).

  15. 15.

    Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/1818 of 17 July 2020 (European Commission, 2020);

  16. 16.

    Goldhammer, B., Busse, C. & Busch, T. J. Ind. Ecol. 21, 1165–1179 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank H. Adamsson, M. Bytheway, T. Cojoianu, N. Humphreys, J.-C. Nicaise Chateau, C. Posti, M. Rezec, P.-S. Yu and G. Zdanceviucite for constructive discussions on precautionary estimation techniques. A.G.F.H. acknowledges funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme for research on Fintech (grant no. H2020-ICT-825215) and Science Foundation Ireland (award 19/FIP/AI/7539). J.R. acknowledges funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant no. 820829; CONSTRAIN).

Author information




A.G.F.H. and J.R. contributed equally to the writing of the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Andreas G. F. Hoepner or Joeri Rogelj.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Kornelis Blok, Timo Busch and Jonatan Pinkse for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hoepner, A.G.F., Rogelj, J. Emissions estimations should embed a precautionary principle. Nat. Clim. Chang. 11, 638–640 (2021).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing