Climate Change

COP27: Expert Group zeroes in on weak net zero targets; asks industries to speed up

Indian companies under scanner, prefer to play an wait-and-watch game

By Jayanta Basu
Published: Thursday 10 November 2022
Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said he would take a close look at the report. Photo:

A high-level expert group set up by the United Nations has zeroed in on weak net zero pledges that threaten to put in the shade, global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The group’s report has put Indian companies like Reliance Industries Ltd, the Adani Group, Tata Consultancies Ltd, HDFC Bank, Wipro Ltd, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, JSW Energy Ltd, ITC Ltd and Dalmia Cement under the scanner. These companies have already announced their net zero targets.

The group released the report on its recommendations to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Sharm El-Sheikh November 8, 2022.

The recent report has pushed the Indian companies to become more ambitious and walk-talk their committments.

The report is meant for ‘non-State’ actors like businesses, cities and regions. But the role of major emitting countries including India has come into focus with the release of the report.

“While the report does not focus on countries, it is clearly evident that many of the recommendations also apply to an extent for major emitters including India, all of whom seem to have highly long drawn targets for net zero,” an expert told this reporter on the side lines of the meeting.

“Major emitters need to reassess their net zero targets at the wake of the recently released international reports which clearly underline the extreme climate emergency already the world has walked into,” the expert said.

“I will have a close look,” said Bhupender Yadav, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change told this reporter in Sharm El-Sheikh November 8, when asked about the report.

India’s net zero target is 2070 while the United States and United Kingdom have fixed 2050 as their net zero target and China had announced it to be 2060.

Indian companies having net zero targets are not willing to commit anything immediately and prefer to play the wait-and-watch game for the time being. “The report has just released. We need to study the recommendations; moreover, we need to see what the other industries are doing,” a senior official said.

‘No cheating’ 

The expert group consists of former ministers, bankers, business leaders and prominent researchers. Some of the key recommendations provided by them include:

  • Owning of climate plans by the leaders in a company or region.
  • Need to have a climate plan to be fast enough, 2030 or earlier, considering the 1.5 degrees warming limit.
  • Stop buying of unreliable emission cut certificates basically ensuring “no cheating”.
  • Stop supporting exploration of new fossil fuel supplies.
  • Stop removal of forest areas by companies and regions by 2025.
  • Regularly reporting the progress.

It further says that “net zero won’t work without sufficient money flowing to developing countries (and) … should be reflected in the plans of companies and regions”.   

“The report provides a crucial roadmap to bring integrity to net zero commitments by industry, financial institutions, cities and to support a global, equitable transition to be a sustainable future,” Catherine McKenna, chair of the UN-appointed expert group and former Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said.

Arunabha Ghosh, chief executive officer in the Council of Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and a member of the committee, told this reporter:

“We have to get serious about net zero … the recommendation is the ‘non-State’ actors set out clear targets and pathways but also deliver on absolute emissions reductions by their own efforts.”

The report has come at a time when the world is impacted by an energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and devastating climate disasters in south Asia including India being earlier highlighted by the World Meteorological Organization at the beginning of COP27.

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