UN experts demand crackdown on greenwashing of net zero pledges | Cop27

A United Nations group set up to crack down on the green laundering of net zero pledges by industry and government has called for ‘red lines’ to stop support for new fossil fuel exploration and overuse of fossil fuels. carbon offsets.

The “high-level group of experts”, created in March by UN Secretary General António Guterresto advise on rules to improve the integrity and transparency of net zero commitments by industry, regions and cities, said climate plans must include deep reductions in greenhouse gases before 2030 and not not delay action until closer to 2050.

He stressed that serious commitments must prioritize immediate reductions in absolute emissions, with the use of carbon offsets – an often controversial practice that allows companies and governments to pay for reductions elsewhere instead of reducing their own pollution – to be used sparingly in subsequent years, if at all. Rules were needed to ensure that offsets were of high quality and came from a reliable and verifiable source, the group said.

The expert panel was created after widespread concerns about greenwashing, including claims by big fossil fuel companies that they were aiming for net zero emissions by 2050 while supporting new developments in coal, oil and gas and relying heavily on offsets.

A Guardian survey this year revealed that oil and gas companies, including several with net zero commitments, were still planning vast new developments that would push the world well beyond the goals of the landmark 2015 Paris agreement. In Australia, they include Woodside, which took over BHP’s global oil assets and plans to open new fields off the northwest coast.

The net zero plans already adopted have been criticized for being vague, delaying action until it is too late, and relying too heavily on claimed cuts to non-nature offset projects, such as planting trees and supporting forest regrowth. Although offsets have received widespread support from governments and industry as a cheaper way to reduce pollution than outright reductions, experts have said they should only be used after that a company or a regional or local government has achieved short and medium term objectives.

Publish the report to the Cop27 At the climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, the chair of the panel, former Canadian climate minister Catherine McKenna, said net zero pledges must be about “cutting emissions, not corners.” “.

“Right now, the planet cannot afford delays, excuses or more greenwashing,” she said.

Bill Hare, panel member, climatologist and managing director of Climate Analytics, said no one could ignore the need to “immediately and drastically reduce emissions”.

“If industry, financial institutions, cities and regions mean what they say in their net zero pledges, they will adopt these recommendations,” he said. “If fossil fuel companies think they can ramp up production under a net-zero goal, they need to think again.”

Experts said non-state actors should be required to report publicly annually, backing up their claims with verifiable information, to avoid dishonest climate accounting. They called for voluntary net-zero commitments for large corporate emitters to be replaced with regulated requirements.

António Guterres said: “A growing number of governments and [companies] commit to being carbon-free – and that’s good news. The problem is that the criteria and benchmarks for these net zero commitments have varying levels of rigor and gaps wide enough to pass a diesel truck,” he said. “We must have zero tolerance for net zero greenwashing.”

The Secretary General also had strong words for fossil fuel companies: “The so-called ‘net zero commitments’ that exclude commodities [coal, oil, gas] poison our planet. It is reprehensible to use false promises of net zero to cover up the massive expansion of fossil fuels. This toxic cover-up could push our world over the climate cliff. »

The report was backed by Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation and considered one of the architects of the Paris agreement as France’s environment minister. She said honoring this agreement required drawing “a clear line on true net zero – what it really means and requires, and what is simply greenwashing”.

“We can’t afford creative accounting,” she said. “I urge all actors – including cities, regions, businesses, investors, alliances, countries and regulators to take these recommendations seriously and urgently incorporate them.”

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