Climate Change

COP27: Non-state actors can’t destroy the environment, yet claim to be net zero, says report

Businesses, financial institutions, cities and regions must ensure that their operations don’t contribute to deforestation, peatland loss and ecosystem destruction

By Rohini Krishnamurthy
Published: Tuesday 08 November 2022
António Guterres, United Nations secretary-general, addresses the session on Net Zero Commitments of Non-State Actors_

Non-state actors investing in new fossil fuel supply or engaging in deforestation and other environmentally destructive activities cannot claim to be net zero, according to a new report launched November 8, 2022 at Sharm El-Sheikh.

The document, launched by a High-level Expert Group at the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, lists 10 recommendations for non-state actors.

These actors include businesses, financial institutions, cities and regions. The recommendations can help bring integrity, transparency and accountability to such actors’ net zero ambitions, according to the document titled Integrity Matters: Net Zero Commitments By Businesses, Financial Institutions, Cities and Regions.

Read Climate colloquy: All about net zero

“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,” António Guterres, United Nations secretary-general said,

Guterres had established the High-level Expert Group at COP26 in Glasgow last year to address credibility issues with net zero pledges and commitments from these entities.

Catherine McKenna, chair of the High-level Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities, said non-state actors have a crucial role in keeping the net zero goal alive.

“They will either help scale the ambition and action we need to ensure a sustainable planet, or else they strongly increase the likelihood of failure. The planet cannot afford delays, excuses, or more greenwashing,” McKenna wrote in the report.

“This is about cutting emissions, not corners. Our roadmap provides clear standards and criteria that must be followed when developing net zero commitments,” she said.

The path towards net zero by non-state actors should align with science, the report’s authors said during the press briefing.

The recommendations listed in the report also apply to smaller non-state actors as they have an important role to play, the experts highlighted. These actors need support and assistance to follow the listed recommendations, they added.

Small and medium enterprises (SME) provide 50 per cent of employment. It is risky if SMEs do not have the financing and technical ability to reduce emissions,” Malango Mughogho, managing director of ZeniZeni Sustainable Finance, said at the briefing.

It is also critical to include a just transition plan in the path towards net zero. “Indigenous people are not included in conversations on net zero. Just transition is intertwined in serval different recommendations provided in the report,” Mughogho said.

Read World Indigenous Peoples Day: How net-zero climate goal alienates tribals

Non-state actors must also make their progress public with verified information. This should be compared with other counterparts to ensure the climate accounting is honest and transparent, the report said.

Non-state actors purchasing cheap credits rather than immediately cutting their own emissions across their value chain is a red flag, the report said.

By 2025, businesses, financial institutions, cities and regions must ensure that their operations and supply chains don’t contribute to deforestation, peatland loss and the destruction of the remaining natural ecosystems, the authors noted.

Entities should not lobby to undermine ambitious government climate policies directly or through trade associations or other bodies.

The report called for a task force on net zero regulations on the net zero path.

“By adopting these recommendations, leaders can accelerate the transition and, in doing so, make sure everyone does their bit to concretely cut emissions and make the positive wave of momentum behind voluntary net zero mean something,” it said. 

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