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Net-zero commitments by fossil fuel companies are meaningless, says report

Net-zero commitments by fossil fuel companies are meaningless, says report

The Houston Ship Channel and adjacent refineries are part of the Port of Houston. are seen in Houston, Texas, US. Photo credit: Reuters / Loren Elliott.

By Anders Lorenzen

In recent years, a series of large and small fossil fuel companies have publicly signalled net-zero commitments while continuing business-as-usual investments in fossil fuels.

Around 75 out of 112 of the largest fossil fuel companies have committed themselves to reach net-zero.  The phrase is designed either a) to describe the point at which greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are offset by deep cuts in output elsewhere or b) by the adoption of the technology to remove atmospheric CO2.  

The number of 75 is up from 51 from a year ago. This is according to data by the Net-Zero Tracker which is run by the London-based think tank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and the University of Oxford.

But the report looking at this data deems such pledges made by those 75 fossil fuel companies meaningless. It argues that the pledges fail to address key concerns that the targets do not fully cover or lack transparency on Scope 3 emissions which is the use of companies’ own products.   

For the fossil fuel companies, this is the biggest source of emissions. And they also do not include short-term emission reduction plans. It is on the basis of those concerns that the report labels the net-zero pledges largely meaningless.  In addition, the report outlined concerns that none of the fossil fuel companies was making the needed commitments to move away from fossil fuel extraction and or production.

Greenwashing concerns

Currently, if you were to include countries, states, regions, cities and companies – globally 4,000 have now committed to net-zero.

Many are signing up, but not all commitments have been in good faith, and there is much `greenwashing`. Therefore, in November last year, the United Nations (UN) issued a strategy for what a good net-zero strategy that is not `greenwashing` should look like.

Concerning the report, Thomas Hale from the University of Oxford who was a co-author of the report, said: “We haven’t yet seen a huge move from fossil fuel companies or other companies on meeting those (guidelines), so there’s still a lot of work to do to come up to that level.” 

According to a study published last week in the Journal of Science, 90% of countries’ net-zero targets were unlikely to be achieved.

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