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Net-zero targets adopted by one-fifth of world’s largest companies: Report

At least one-fifth (21%) of the world’s 2,000 largest public listed companies, representing a sale of $14 trillion have already committed to net-zero targets, according to a new report. The report is important because it is the first systematic analysis of net-zero commitments across countries, sub-national governments and major companies.

The report titled, ‘Taking Stock: A global assessment of net-zero targets’ is prepared by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and Oxford Net Zero. According to the report 61% of countries, 9% of states & regions in the largest emitting countries and 13% of cities over 5 lac in population have made some form of commitment to net zero.

Household and personal products sector have the highest level of net-zero target while the semiconductor sector has the least coverage, it said.

According to the report, the race to achieve net-zero targets by the mid-century has accelerated since the adoption of the Paris Agreement and the publication of the IPCC 1.5° C report. The analysis lauded efforts by governments for setting a long-term science-based target and a logical approach to decarbonisation.

But there is a lack of transparency around how countries and companies alike will use offsetting to meet targets. 

The authors warned that companies might announce targets but not follow it with proper governance and transparency mechanisms, leaving themselves open to allegations of ‘greenwashing’.

“While the rapid uptake of net zero targets is encouraging, we need much more clarity from actors on how they plan to get there. It’s particularly important that actors clarify their approach to offsetting,” said Dr Thomas Hale from the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford and co-author of the report.

Though some offsetting may be required for “residual emissions” in some sectors, immediate emission reductions should be the top priority of the companies and countries, he stressed.

The report pointed out that only 20% of existing net-zero targets meet a set of basic robustness or ‘starting line’ criteria for credible net-zero plans as set out by the U.N.-backed “Race to Zero” campaign. Under the campaign, members have pledged to meet a set of ‘starting line’ before COP26. 

It suggested that since only 20% of the targets are met, most of the work will be done by the members over the coming months (before COP26 in November).

“There is logic to setting a target and then building a plan and reporting mechanisms to meet that, but companies and countries alike will need to make progress on this in the run-up to COP,” said Richard Black, senior associate at ECIU and lead author of the report.

In the lead up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the focus will intensify on the number of entities making net-zero pledges and their potential to help keep climate change within ‘safe limits, as well as on renewed pledges for 2030 under the Paris Agreement, it said. 

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