The publication by a UN expert group was released on Tuesday. The team involved said it is result of intense work and consultations over seven months.
The report slams greenwashing and weak net-zero commitments, but it also provides a roadmap to bring integrity to such pledges by industry, financial institutions, cities, and regions and to support a global, equitable transition to a sustainable future.
António Guterres, UN secretary-general, launched the report at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. At COP26 in Glasgow last year, he announced he would appoint a high-level expert group to address a ‘surplus of confusion and deficit of credibility’ over net-zero targets of non-State entities.
According to the experts, actors cannot claim to be ‘net zero’ while continuing to build or invest in new fossil fuel supply or any kind of environmentally destructive activities such as deforestaton. They can’t also participate or have their partners participate in lobbying activities against climate change or just report on one part of their business's assets while hiding the rest.
Net-zero pledges must be in line with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, they added.
That means global emissions must decline by at least 45% by 2030 – and reach net zero by 2050. Pledges should have interim targets every five years starting in 2025, noted Guterres.
The targets must also cover all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and all their scopes. For financial institutions, this means all of their finance activities, and for businesses and cities, it means all emissions – direct, indirect and those originating from supply chains.
"By 2025, businesses, cities and regions with significant land‑use emissions must make sure that their operations and supply chains don’t contribute to deforestation, peatland loss and the destruction of remaining natural ecosystems.
"Financial institutions should have a policy of not investing or financing businesses linked to deforestation, and should eliminate agricultural commodity-driven deforestation from their investment and credit portfolios by 2025," as per the report recommendations.
Plan for transition
The UN secretary-general also stressed that net-zero pledges should be accompanied by a plan for how the transition is being made.
“Management must be accountable for delivering on these pledges. This means publicly advocating for decisive climate action and disclosing all lobbying activity,” he said, adding that the absence of standards, regulations and rigor in voluntary carbon market credits is deeply concerning.
The report also identifies what businesses, financial institutions, and authorities need to do to phase out coal, oil, and gas.
‘The stakes are so high’
“Right now, the planet cannot afford delays, excuses, or more greenwashing,” said former Canadian minister, Catherine Mckenna, chairman of the high-level expert group.
She acknowledged that some entities are making strides, such as companies investing in innovation, investors moving their money from dirty to clean, and cities changing their energy grid to renewables.
“But the bad news is that too many of the net-zero pledges are... little more than empty slogans and hype,” she argued. “Why is greenwashing so bad? In part, because the stakes are so high. It’s not just advertising, bogus net-zero claims drive up the cost that ultimately everyone would pay.”