The world’s largest companies and subnational governments are failing to deliver credible and robust plans to achieve net zero emissions by mid-century, a new report has found.
The report, published by Net Zero Tracker, a collaboration among four environmental nonprofits and research organizations, evaluated the net zero claims of more than 2,000 companies and 1,000 subnational governments against various standards.
It found that only 4% of corporate commitments and 5% of subnational targets met the minimum requirements for credibility, such as setting interim targets and covering all the emissions a company is responsible for.
The report also found that 41% of states and regions in the world’s 25 highest-emitting countries and 37% of the largest global companies by annual revenue lack any plan to mitigate climate pollution. The healthcare, infrastructure, and retail sectors have some of the lowest rates of adoption.
The report warned that without tangible action from firms, capping global warming at 1.5°C above preindustrial levels will likely remain out of reach, as scientists have said the world could breach this limit within a decade.
The report called for more regulation and accountability from national governments to ensure that their net zero targets are translated into concrete actions by the entities operating within their boundaries.
“The big question is whether existing net zero targets will acquire the measures of credibility quickly enough to keep the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals within reach,” said John Lang, Net Zero Tracker’s project lead.
He added: “We aren’t seeing any improvement whatsoever on the integrity side. Most entities that have pledged net zero do not meet minimum requirements for what good net zero looks like.”
Takeshi Kuramochi, one of the report’s authors, said: “You can see cities talking about net zero, companies talking about net zero. And if you go to supermarkets, you see climate-neutral or carbon-neutral products. But then you don’t know what exactly they mean and whether they’re really contributing to this transition to global net-zero emissions.”
The report also highlighted some examples of credible net zero plans, such as those by Microsoft, Unilever, and Nestlé. It praised them for setting science-based targets, covering all emissions scopes and sectors, and prioritizing emissions reductions over offsets.
The report comes amid growing scrutiny of net zero claims by fossil fuel companies and other high-emitting sectors. Last week, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority censured Spanish oil and gas company Repsol and energy giant Shell for misleading consumers about their net-zero plans.
It also follows a separate peer-reviewed study published last week in the journal Science that raised questions about the credibility of net-zero targets at the national level. Its authors say taking government pledges at face value risks exaggerating the likelihood that warming can be capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius.
– Climate: Corporate ‘Net Zero’ Pledges Lack Credibility, Barron’s, June 12, 2023
– Net-zero targets are more popular than ever, but less than 5% are credible, Grist, June 12, 2023
– More companies setting ‘net-zero’ climate targets, but few have credible plans, report says, ABC News, June 11, 2023
– Net Zero Tracker report finds that major credibility gaps remain in net zero commitments, Blavatnik School of Government, June 13, 2023