UN unveils scrutiny group for net-zero targets

The UN has launched a new "expert group" aimed at developing ambitious and coherent standards for net-zero emissions pledges from businesses, investors, cities and regions.

UN unveils scrutiny group for net-zero targets

The expert group will make recommendations before the end of the year

The High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities was launched Thursday afternoon (31 March) by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

The Group has been developed to steer non-state net-zero commitments. It will aim to improve the current definitions for net-zero standards by issuing credibility criteria and measurement metrics for decarbonisation. The Group will also introduce processes to verify progress and reporting for net-zero commitments and create a roadmap to translate standards into international and national-level regulations.

“Despite growing pledges of climate action, global emissions are at an all-time high. They continue to rise. The latest science shows that climate disruption is causing havoc in every region — right now. We are in a race against time to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees. And we are losing,” Guterres said.

“Governments have the lion’s share of responsibility to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century. Especially the G20. But we also urgently need every business, investor, city, state and region to walk the talk on their net-zero promises. To avert a climate catastrophe, we need bold pledges matched by concrete action. Tougher net-zero standards and strengthened accountability around the implementation of these commitments can deliver real and immediate emissions cuts.”

The expert group consists of balanced representation across gender, diversity and geographical location. It will be chaired by Catherine McKenna, former Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Amanda Starbuck, program director of UK-based Sunrise Project, Jessica Omukuti a Kenyan research fellow on inclusiveness in net-zero at the Oxford Net-Zero Institute for Science Innovation and Society (InSIS) and Bill Hare, co-founder of Climate Analytics are some of the members of the new expert group.

“The recent avalanche of net-zero pledges by businesses, investors, cities and regions will be vital to keep 1.5°C alive and to build towards a safe and healthy planet, but only if all pledges have transparent plans, robust near-term action, and are implemented in full,” McKenna said.

The expert group will make recommendations before the end of the year.

Navigating net-zero

The announcement comes just days after investors warned that businesses aren’t supporting net-zero commitments with credible action and decarbonisation plans.

Climate Action 100+, the world’s largest investor engagement initiative on climate change which includes 700 signatories covering $68trn in assets under management, released its Net Zero Company Benchmark on Wednesday (30 March).

The Benchmark analyses 166 companies of their efforts to align with the Paris Agreement. The investor group expressed concern that companies are failing to set medium-term emissions reductions targets that are Paris-aligned, of which only 17% have done so. Just 42% of companies also have “comprehensive” net-zero targets that cover all material emissions such as Scope 3, while just 5% have plans in place to align capex strategies with emissions targets.

The analysis also found that just 17% of companies have “robust quantified decarbonisation strategies” in place, with many only having commitments in place.

Last year, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) unveiled the world’s first standard for corporate net-zero emissions aligned to climate science.

The SBTi’s Net-Zero Standard is the world’s first science-based certification of companies’ net-zero targets. The certification is given to businesses if their decarbonisation strategies are in alignment with the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping planetary warming to 1.5C.

Since then, the Carbon Trust has launched a new certification scheme to verify business’ net-zero targets and strategies. Called the ‘Route to Net Zero Standard’, the scheme will be open to businesses of all sizes and sectors and in all geographies

Matt Mace

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