Climate Change

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30 Jun 2023

Credibility and Accountability of Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities

The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, on 31 March 2022, established a High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities to develop stronger and clearer standards for net-zero emissions pledges by non-State entities – including businesses, investors, cities, and regions – and speed up their implementation. 

With the launch of the report “Integrity Matters: Net Zero commitments by Businesses, Financial Institutions, Cities and Regions” at the UN Climate Conference (COP27) in Sharm-el Sheikh, Egypt, the Group has successfully finalized its work and delivered on its mandate.

“We must have zero tolerance for net-zero greenwashing,” said the Secretary-General at the launch event that took place on 8 November 2022. The report provides clarity in four key areas – environmental integrity, credibility, accountability, and the role of governments.

The Secretary-General has issued specific asks to implement the Group’s recommendations, a process led by his Climate Action Team, in close collaboration with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He also described the expected next steps for existing and new net-zero voluntary initiatives, ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit and COP28, expected to take place later this year. Among other things, the Secretary-General called on non-State entities to put forward credible and transparent transition plans  and to submit them before the end of this year.

Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, the world has seen an increasing number of net-zero commitments by non-State actors, in particular from the private and financial sectors, as well as from local government and regions. The growth in pledges has been accompanied by a proliferation of criteria and benchmarks to set net-zero commitments with varying levels of robustness. This misleads consumers, investors, and regulators with false narratives, and it feeds a culture of climate misinformation and confusion.

The ten recommendations, outlined in the report, are a how-to guide for credible, accountable net-zero pledges and detail what non-State actors need to consider through each stage of their progress towards achieving net-zero ambitions and addressing the climate crisis. 

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