Report Draws Questions on Big Global Companies' Net-Zero Emissions Promises
According to a new study of net-zero initiatives in the public and private sectors, corporate pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fall short of what is needed to tackle climate change, with "severe credibility gaps" among the world's largest firms.
Approximately half of the Forbes 2000 largest companies have yet to disclose plans to achieve net-zero emissions, which is defined as the point at which greenhouse gas emissions are negated by drastic reductions in output as well as ways to absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. According to Net Zero Tracker's yearly report, two-thirds of the 702 organisations with a net-zero aim haven't stated how they expect to reach that goal.
The UK-based Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and the University of Oxford collaborate on Net Zero Tracker, which evaluates publicly available data for roughly 200 countries and big publicly traded corporations, including those in the fossil fuel industry.
"We see a lot of concerns with the credibility, quality, and strength of these targets," said Frederic Hans, a climate policy expert at the German think tank NewClimate Institute.
According to the study, many corporations with net-zero goals have set no interim emissions goals before 2050, which is "unacceptably low" if the world is to cut emissions in half in the next eight years.
Carbon offsetting — the practice of purchasing credits for emissions that have been lowered elsewhere — was also significant among corporate efforts. Despite concerns about the absence of regulation, nearly 40% of the Forbes 2000 companies with a net-zero aim plan to apply offsets.
To achieve net-zero progress, governments will need to establish legal rules and restrictions, according to ECIU co-author John Lang. Companies are currently perplexed as to what is expected of them. He stated, "They don't know what information has to be shared."
The United Nations formed an expert panel to develop net-zero criteria for the business sector and analyse agreements at its climate summit in Glasgow last year. The European Union is also working on net-zero reporting requirements, which are expected to be implemented in November. Companies cannot use carbon offsets to achieve net-zero emissions under the current draft wording.
"We need top-down, mandatory regulations to direct them," Lang says. He doubted, however, that the matter would be settled in time for the next United Nations climate summit, "COP27," in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt, in November. He believes that "it probably won't be fixed until COP28" in 2023.