UN experts call for tough rules to stop net zero greenwash

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — Oil companies pledging to net-zero emissions better ensure they have a credible plan and aren’t just making false promises, oil experts said Tuesday. in a report calling for tough standards on emission reduction vows.

Released at the UN’s flagship climate conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the expert panel made a number of tough recommendations for businesses, banks and local governments looking to commit to net zero to ensure that their promises are meaningful. rather than “false” assurances.

They called it a roadmap to prevent net zero from being “undermined by misrepresentation, ambiguity and ‘greenwash.’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed the group exactly a year ago at last year’s UN climate summit to develop principles and recommendations aimed at clearing up the confusion around the growing number net zero declarations made by companies and organizations. But there has been little transparency or uniform standards when it comes to net zero commitments, leading to an explosion in the number of hard-to-verify claims, according to UN experts and environmental groups.

“It is reprehensible to use false promises of ‘net zero’ to cover up the massive expansion of fossil fuels. This is pure deception,” António Guterres said at the COP27 summit. “This toxic cover-up could push our world over the climate cliff. The fraud must stop.”

Since the Paris Agreement in 2015 set a global goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F), there has been a growing wave of support for the concept of “net zero” – drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and canceling out the rest – as the primary means of achieving this goal.

“To avoid dishonest climate accounting…we emphasize that non-state actors must publicly report their progress with verified information that can be compared with their peers,” said Catherine McKenna, who led the 17-expert group. high level that drew the report.

So-called non-state actors include companies, investors and local and regional governments, which are not covered by the requirements of the Paris agreement. Their voluntary carbon reduction pledges must be “ambitious, honest and transparent, credible and fair”, the experts said.

Among its 10 specific recommendations, companies cannot claim to be net zero if they continue to invest in or build new fossil fuel supplies, deforestation or other environmentally destructive projects. They cannot buy cheap carbon offset credits “which often lack integrity instead of immediately reducing their own emissions”.

António Guterres said he was deeply concerned about the lack of “standards, regulations and rigor” in the voluntary carbon credit market. Climate experts say offsets can be problematic because there is no guarantee they will reduce emissions.

Pushing to undermine the government’s ambitious climate policies is a no-no, experts said. And companies cannot just focus on the emissions they generate directly from, for example, manufacturing, but must include those generated along the way in their supply chains for parts and raw materials.

“This renewed interest from the corporate sector in eliminating emissions is truly inspiring,” said Ani Dasgupta, CEO of the World Resources Institute, warning that “any corporate net zero target with loopholes or weak guardrails would put our planet and billions of people at risk.”

In order to keep the Earth from warming less than 1.5 degrees, the UN says carbon dioxide emissions must peak by 2025, nearly halve by 2030 and reach net zero by 2025. mid-century here.

The only way to do this now is to reduce the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and balance the remaining emissions by phasing them out altogether, planting trees, or using as yet untested technologies. on a large scale, such as capturing carbon emissions at source. such as factory chimneys and store them underground.

Along the way, net zero has become a buzzword for companies and groups looking to rebrand themselves green, though environmental activists fear it could turn into greenwashing.

McDonald’s has opened net zero restaurants in the US and UK powered by solar panels and wind turbines. Airline group IATA has set a long-term goal for the aviation industry to reach net zero by 2050. Even oil companies have jumped on the bandwagon. Chevron touts its “net zero aspiration” and Shell advertises its “net zero emissions drive”.

Private equity firm Carlyle Group was an early adopter of net-zero commitment, but did not include its largest oil and gas investment in a recent report on the financial risks of greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse effect.

Organizers of this year’s FIFA World Cup hosted by Qatar say the massive spree of building stadiums, highways and metros for the event was entirely carbon neutral – a claim experts have pinned on questioned.

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The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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