A new report on the global net-zero movement finds that many of the public and private corporations driving the explosion of net-zero targets are failing to account for their Scope 3 (indirect) emissions.
“This could majorly undermine the credibility of net-zero targets,” writes edie, since the Scope 3 emissions produced by the average, large multinational firm will be 11.4 times higher than its direct carbon pollution.
A post-COP 26 snapshot published by Net-Zero Tracker finds that companies with net-zero targets that meet “minimum procedural standards” have nearly doubled in the last year, from 110 to 207. The number of companies meeting criteria for “leadership on decarbonization” has also doubled. But only 32% of corporate net-zero targets cover the entirety of Scope 3 emissions, according to the snapshot, while another 25% partially address them.
“Given Scope 3 reporting is hard and it’s currently voluntary, most firms take an ‘à la carte’ approach to carbon reporting and action, choosing the lowest-hanging fruit and ignoring potentially the largest emissions sources in their value chain,” climate scientist Angel Hsu said in a Net-Zero Tracker media release.
The snapshot also expresses concern that many businesses are overly optimistic about using carbon offsets to reach net-zero, and made little or no progress to firm up their offsetting plans. Of the 43% of the businesses that intend to use offsets to meet their targets, two-thirds have not specified how or why carbon credits will be used.
That gap may set them up for future grief, with Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-Zero (GFANZ) founder Mark Carney recently specifying that companies should treat offsets as a “last resort”, after all other efforts to reduce their actual emissions.
The large number of businesses considering buying offset credits to fulfil their net-zero plans “is worrying because the market is awash with cheap credits of dubious quality,” said Oxford Net-Zero Executive Director Dr. Steve Smith. “We can’t offset all the way to real, global net-zero. Leaders need to prioritize cutting their own emissions and set out clear rules and limits to their offsetting.”
The snapshot finds that commitments from nations, cities, and regions now cover 90% of global GDP, 85% of the global population, and 88% of global emissions. But 55% of countries have set their targets for after 2050, and two-thirds of the municipal targets exist only as pledges or discussions rather than concrete plans, edie writes.