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COP27: Are Cities Using Net-Zero Commitments to Mislead?

COP27: Are Cities Using Net-Zero Commitments to Mislead?

An aerial view of Mumbai, June 2021. Photo: ikshit Patel/Unsplash

Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt: More than half of cities with pledges to reach net zero emissions have no plan for how they’ll track and report progress, an analysis published Tuesday said.

The assessment, conducted by the research consortium Net Zero Tracker, adds to growing concern that non-state actors, including companies and cities, are using net-zero commitments to mislead or confuse consumers, investors and policymakers about how they combat global warming.

A United Nations high-level expert group last week issued guidelines for how to avoid greenwashing on net-zero pledges. The new analysis finds that few non-state actors are in clear compliance.

Of the 1,156 publicly-listed companies, regions and cities that have so far made net-zero pledges – up from 907 a year ago – many are little more than vague commitments or proposals, the report said.

“This is an area in which cities and regions, in particular, have much further progress to make,” the report said. “Over half of cities with net zero pledges currently have no form of reporting mechanism.”

Companies were doing better, with over three quarters having some plan in place to track progress, though the report cautioned that a substantial fraction remained without any public transparency on their plans to decarbonise.

“Companies often make these pledges because they feel pressure from customers,” said Silke Mooldijk of policy think tank NewClimate Institute, which contributed to the assessment. “But are they actually commitments towards decarbonisation?”

The expert group recommended non-state actors include interim goals ahead of achieving their net zero targets, which are typically set for 2050.

The Net Zero Tracker analysis found just 10% of cities and 20% of companies currently include interim targets, though this number has grown slightly since 2021.

Most companies also haven’t disclosed whether they intend to use carbon credits to offset their emissions, instead of taking concrete measures to cut them, the report said.

It is also often hard to track whether companies are engaged in lobbying behind closed doors to could clash with their public climate promises, the report said.

Both the purchasing of carbon offsets and engaging in pro-fossil fuel lobbying should be considered when assessing the validity of net-zero pledges, the UN group had said.

(Reuters – reporting by Gloria Dickie; editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

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