Two dozen of the world’s biggest corporations are “hiding their climate inaction behind the fig leaf of green-sounding ‘net zero’ plans,” according to the two organizations behind the latest edition of the Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor.
With combined annual revenue above €3 trillion, responsibility for about 4% of global emissions, and high-profile associations with the United Nations Race to Zero campaign, the companies’ climate actions all fell short of the “high integrity” threshold in the annual assessment produced by the New Climate Institute and Carbon Market Watch. “Despite their net zero pledges and claims of climate leadership, the overwhelming majority of these corporations are simply not delivering the goods they promised,” the two think tanks write.
“At a time when corporations need to come clean about their climate impact and shrink their carbon footprint, many are exploiting vague and misleading ‘net zero’ pledges to greenwash their brand while continuing with business as usual,” said Carbon Market Watch Executive Director Sabine Frank. “This dangerous procrastination must stop. Since multinationals have both an oversized impact on the planet and the means to reduce their carbon footprint, they must take real action to clean up their act and not just their image by slashing their emissions.”
The landing page for the report calls on governments to “stop their dithering and regulate robustly what green claims companies are permitted to make.”
Of the 24 companies in the study, 15 rated low or very low for the integrity of their climate plans, New Climate and Carbon Market Watch write. Half of them, including Apple, DHL, Google, and Microsoft, “are already making carbon neutrality claims, but these claims only cover 3% of those companies’ emissions. More worryingly still, three-quarters of the corporations plan to offset or neutralize a significant portion of their emissions using carbon credits” from forestry and other land use projects.
“Not only do these solutions only store carbon temporarily and are vulnerable to reversals,” said CMW Policy Director Sam Van den plas. “We would need a second planet Earth to absorb global emissions if everyone decided to offset like these corporations.”
The overall pledges fall short, as well, the study concludes. By 2030, when humanity must cut global greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half, the 22 companies that even have end-of-decade targets project emission reductions of just 15%.
“By 2050, it is widely accepted that corporations will need to have reduced their emissions by 90 to 95% compared with current levels,” the two organizations add. But the “net zero pledges of the 24 corporations amount to a measly 36% by mid-century.”
Berlin-based Clean Energy Wire has launched a series of case studies of companies that “have started to scan—and then reduce—the climate impact of their international supply chains, sending ripple effects across continents.” But the record so far doesn’t look stellar. The collection includes:
• A carbon offset “gold rush” in the forests of Mexico;
• The gap between promise and reality in Netflix’ net-zero promises;
• The risk that net-zero targets will prompt the “massive chipmaking industry” in Taiwan to relocate;
• A policy and funding vacuum in India that may be undercutting the country’s corporate net-zero targets.