Integrity Matters: Net Zero Commitments by Businesses, Financial Institutions, Cities, and Regions

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In the years after the call for a balance between sinks and sources of emissions in the Paris Agreement became the concept of “ net zero”, thousands of cities, regions, companies and financiers formed a voluntary groundswell and swung behind the concept. But net zero is now at an inflection point. Some of those non‑state
actors did not follow their net zero pledges with action, in spite of the urgency set out in the science. Some may have underestimated the task or interpreted net zero differently. Some may never have intended to achieve their stated goals, aiming only to benefit from the positive press abounding at the time. Many others are making good faith efforts to work toward global climate goals but do not yet know exactly what is required, or lack capacity or resources to deliver on their targets.

What the Expert Group offers here is a roadmap to prevent net zero from being undermined by false claims, ambiguity and “greenwash”. We have built on the existing science and best-in-class voluntary efforts to create a universal definition of net zero, based on five principles and ten recommendations to guide the future of net zero, and focused on the actions that need to be taken by cities, states, corporations and those who regulate them. The risk is clear. If greenwash premised upon low-quality net zero pledges is not addressed, it will undermine the efforts of genuine leaders, creating both confusion, cynicism and a failure to deliver urgent climate action. Which is why, ultimately, regulations will be required to establish a level playing field and ensure that ambition is always matched by action.

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