More than half of world’s largest companies’ net zero pledges are false promises, study finds

Unmasking corporate climate pledges: a comprehensive study exposes prevalent greenwashing.

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The recent InfluenceMap study, assessing the climate commitments of nearly 300 of the world’s largest companies, has uncovered a troubling trend: over half are at risk of ‘net zero greenwashing.’ This finding highlights a significant disconnect between corporate pledges to support the Paris Climate Accord and actual policy actions, casting doubt on the integrity of these commitments.

The analysis focused on the world’s top companies from the Forbes 2000 list, revealing that 58 percent have not aligned their climate policy influencing actions with their public claims. This discrepancy raises concerns about the credibility of corporate commitments to achieving net zero emissions.

Catherine McKenna, chair of the High-Level Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities, emphasizes the urgency for businesses to align their actions with their climate pledges. “We urgently need every business, investor, city, state, and region to walk the talk on their net zero promises. We cannot afford slow movers, fake movers, or any form of greenwashing,” she states.

The findings resonate with recent events highlighting the impact of climate change. In 2022 alone, extreme weather events across the globe — from severe drought in China to deadly heatwaves in India — have underlined the immediate threat posed by climate change. Despite these clear signs, many large corporations continue to lobby against climate policies while publicly professing commitment to climate action.

The study categorized companies based on their risk of greenwashing, with 36.5 percent at moderate risk and 21.5 percent at significant risk. Prominent companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil, Delta Airlines, and others are identified as advocating against climate policies or expanding fossil fuel production, undermining their net zero commitments.

The InfluenceMap report aligns with the High-Level Expert Group’s recommendations, stressing the need for immediate and verifiable emissions reductions. The Group’s report, a result of seven months of intense work by 17 experts appointed by the UN Secretary-General, offers ten practical recommendations. These include phasing out fossil fuels, aligning lobbying and advocacy with climate commitments, and increasing transparency and accountability.

The report also emphasizes the importance of a just transition for developing countries, calling for collaboration between financial institutions, multinational corporations, and governments. This approach is crucial for ensuring that the global transition to net zero is equitable and includes adequate support for smaller non-state actors.

As the decade progresses, the actions of these corporations will be critical. McKenna compares the challenge to her experience as a competitive swimmer: it requires an ambitious goal, hard work, and a relentless drive to the finish. The world needs corporate leaders to embrace this challenge, inspiring others to join the drive to net zero. This commitment will not only mitigate climate risk but also unlock multi-trillion-dollar economic opportunities accompanying the transition to a sustainable future.

In conclusion, the InfluenceMap study serves as a crucial reminder of the need for genuine commitment and action in the fight against climate change. It calls for an ‘ambition loop’ for net zero, demanding that corporations not only pledge but also act decisively to achieve a sustainable and livable future for coming generations.

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