Crackdown on Greenwashing Needed, Say UN Experts

the conference center
The Business Post
Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

Crackdown on Greenwashing Needed, Say UN Experts

In a new report, they said non‐state actors cannot claim to be net zero while continuing to build or invest in new fossil fuel supply. Similarly, deforestation and other environmentally destructive activities are disqualifying.

At present, coal, oil and gas account for over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The report’s target is to improve upon the Race to Zero campaign and Science Based Targets Initiative by offering corporate companies and investors time-based frameworks to deliver net zero, depending on short, medium and long-term targets.

The experts have warned that greenwashing and weak net zero pledges can sabotage the efforts to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement, and recommended a crackdown on them.

Net zero means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions reabsorbed from the atmosphere, by oceans and forests for instance, by 2050.

The report — titled “Integrity matters: Net Zero Commitments by Business, Financial Institutions, Cities and Regions” — also recommends a regulatory framework, which now happens on a voluntary basis, and establishing a regulatory body in every government.

They will set targets, formulate a roadmap and timeline to achieve them and must publicly disclose and report the progress against the targets and plans, said the experts.

The United Nations High-Level Expert Group on Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities made the recommendations on Tuesday, at the 27th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — or COP27 — at the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres had appointed this expert group for recommendations on the matter. They worked for seven months to come up with these recommendations after consultation with all stakeholders.

However, carbon trading — by which companies in developed countries can buy credits by eliminating carbon emissions of companies in other countries — will continue and be more accountable, regulated and authentic.

These non-state entities need to eliminate 50 per cent of their emissions by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2050, said the experts.

The report also recommended that multinational companies should set global targets that will account for variability across jurisdictions and include all operations along their value chain in all jurisdictions.

They cannot lobby to undermine ambitious climate policies of governments either directly or through trade associations or other bodies. They have to reduce emissions in their full value chain instead of a particular segment to claim net zero.

While governments must take the lead in reducing emissions, action by non‐state actors is critical to achieving global net zero, said the experts in the report.

“After consulting with hundreds of individuals and organizations and incorporating the latest research and science, we have a roadmap to ensure that net zero commitments by industry, financial institutions, cities and regions are ambitious, transparent and credible,” said Catherine McKenna, chair of the expert group and former Canadian minister of environment and climate change.

She added, “This is about cutting emissions, not corners. Our roadmap provides clear standards and criteria that must be followed when developing net zero commitments. Right now, the planet cannot afford delays, excuses, or more greenwashing.”

According to the experts’ recommendations, all non-state actors should set their initial targets within a year of making their pledge. Non-state actors should have short‐term targets of five years or less, with the first target set for 2025.

They also need to formulate a midterm and a long-term roadmap to achieve net zero by 2050.

At the report launching event, the UN secretary-general said, “We must have zero tolerance for net zero greenwashing. Today’s Expert Group report is a how-to guide to ensure credible, accountable net zero pledges. It provides clarity in four key areas: environmental integrity, credibility, accountability and the role of governments.”

“The G20 — together with all OECD countries — must accelerate the decarbonization of their economies and end their addiction and subsidies to fossil fuels. This means they must rapidly regulate, design policies, pass legislation and approve budgets to limit warming to 1.5 degrees,” he said.

Guterres also called on all governments to build net-zero regulatory environments to fit their needs and national circumstances.

“I will closely follow the proposed Task Force on Net-Zero Regulations. I ask that its leadership and membership are as diverse and representative as this High-Level Group,” he added.

Talking to The Business Post about the report in Bangladesh’s context, PKSF Deputy Managing Director Dr. Fazle Rabbi Sadeque Ahmed said, “These recommendations are not any issue of this year’s negotiations during COP27. But it’s a ground-making report that creates the ground to put the recommendation on the negotiation table in the next years.”

He also suggested the country’s policymakers and negotiators stay informed about these recommendations.

“It cannot be maintained by the least developing countries [LDC] like Bangladesh. It has to be maintained by the developed countries that emit the most. All LDCs together emit only around 3 percent,” said Dr. Ahmed, also a member of the Bangladesh delegation at COP27.

He added, “It will create problems on the road to development for Bangladesh. All the developed countries became developed by using fossil fuels but we are lagging. Becoming a developed country will be difficult if we join or agree to these kinds of recommendations.”

This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security. It was first published by The Business Post on 8 November and has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Banner image: The Sharm el-Sheikh conference hall where COP27 is taking place / Credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images.

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