Net Zero Pledges: Green Progress or Greenwashing?

Sustainability buzzwords sometimes feel like topics trending on Twitter: top of mind one day and nearly forgotten the next.

Consider the case of net-zero pledges, announced by a growing number of countries and companies as a way to communicate climate ambition. Are these commitments substantive? Our recent update on country progress towards 2015 Paris goals with KnowlEdge srl suggests most countries are reducing the emission intensity of their economies too slowly (access the study here). And a recent study by Data-Driven EnviroLab and New Climate Institute looks specifically at net-zero pledges and reaches a similar conclusion (access the study here).

There are some other simple ways to dig below the PR to see if these pledges made by countries and companies are really substantive: 

  • Countries: does the country in question commit to interim emission reduction goals for the short-term (2025/2030) alongside longer-term ones? The Climate Action Tracker actually quantifies what this should look like, estimating that the United States would need to reduce emissions by 60% (inc. LULUCF) by 2030 to achieve President Biden’s goal of being net-zero by 2050.  
  • Companies: does the company in question include scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions in their net-zero pledge? Scope 3 emissions from company supply chains are often the largest contribution to the overall footprint and the most difficult to measure and track. Corporate net-zero pledges that exclude these Scope 3 emissions are often suspect. 

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