“I also have a message to fossil fuel companies and their financial enablers. So-called ‘net-zero pledges’ that exclude core products and activities are poisoning our planet. They must thoroughly review their pledges and align them with this new guidance. Let’s tell it like it is. Using bogus ‘net-zero’ pledges to cover up massive fossil fuel expansion is reprehensible. It is rank deception. This toxic cover-up could push our world over the climate cliff. The sham must end.”
Earlier this month the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said this at COP27. He was introducing a new report on net-zero pledges made by private companies and regional governments, “Integrity Matters”.
“Integrity Matters” was prepared by a diverse group of experts from academia, business, and government, and led by the former Minister of Environment and Climate Change of Canada, Catherine McKenna. In the report’s introduction, McKenna writes: “Instead of being on track to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030, emissions are set to increase by close to 11%.”
Another report released during COP27 was “The Internal Combustion Engine Bubble”, from Greenpeace Germany. That report warns that auto makers are transitioning to electric cars too slowly to prevent catastrophic global warming. That, in fact, “Automakers worldwide are on track to sell an estimated 400 million more diesel and gas vehicles than is feasible to keep global heating under 1.5°C”.
How can this be? How can a carbon pledge be so far off target?
Because companies know that their customers and employees want them to take action on climate change, they make pledges. They file ESG reports. But many companies are pledging carbon reduction targets that don’t align with what’s necessary to prevent 1.5ºC warming.
“Integrity Matters” addresses greenwashing with a series of recommendations. It defines what exactly net-zero means. It calls for businesses to not only have long-term carbon reduction targets but also short-term science based targets that detail a roadmap to their long-term goals. The report also demands transparent progress reports using verifiable and peer-reviewed metrics. It demands regulation. Regulation to ensure a competitive marketplace. Regulation to ensure set standards and accountability. Regulation to close loopholes and eliminate greenwashing.
Not just that, the report states plainly that you cannot claim to be net-zero if your company is involved with fossil fuels. Or, if your company is financing fossil fuel development. That means if your investment firm is bankrolling an oil or gas company, your investment firm is not and cannot be net-zero.
A company cannot be net-zero if their suppliers, their contractors, or their logistics partners are not net-zero too. Climate change isn’t just a fossil fuel sector issue. It is all sectors. All industries. All companies. All hands on deck.
Climate change is a huge challenge. It is the challenge of our lifetimes.
And it is also an opportunity.
It is an opportunity for the solutions that will replace carbon emitting goods and services. The innovations that will decarbonize our warming planet. The firms that will oversee the accounting and reporting. The workforce transitioning to a new, greener economy.
We don’t need more greenwashing. We need an eyes-wide-open tsunami-sized green movement.