BONN: While countries, cities and companies have massively ramped up net-zero emissions promises in recent months there remain “major flaws” in many plans, according to an analysis published Monday that raises fears of potential large-scale greenwashing by businesses.
Faced with mounting urgency and public pressure as deadly and costly climate impacts increase, governments and corporations issued a proliferation of net zero pledges in the run up to the United Nation’s key climate summit in Glasgow last year.
Most rich countries have announced they will be net zero by 2050, while China and India have vowed to reach that point by 2060 and 2070, respectively.
“The use of that concept has simply been booming,” said Frederic Hans, climate policy analyst at NewClimate Institute and the report’s co-lead author. But the devil is in the details.
“If you set a net zero target and you do not communicate in any way what emission reductions are implied by the targets, then nobody knows, you cannot be held accountable,” said Hans.
The report draws on a database of over 4,000 governments, cities, states and major companies and comes as climate negotiators are meeting in Germany to prepare for major UN talks later this year.
It does not drill into exactly how each net-zero plan will negate the amount of greenhouse gases it emits, instead focusing on monitoring how robust the targets are and whether they are followed up with a specific pathway to action.
It found that more than 90 percent of the world’s economy is now covered by promises by governments to reach net zero — a near six-fold increase in three years.
One third of the world’s largest publicly-traded companies also now have net zero goals — 702 firms, up from 417 in December 2020 — they said, while the number of major cities with these emissions reduction targets has doubled to 235.
“We are now at a watershed moment where peer pressure to hastily set net zero pledges, especially in the business sector, could result in either a mass flow of greenwashing — or a fundamental shift towards decarbonisation,” said co-author Takeshi Kuramochi, senior climate policy researcher at NewClimate Institute.