Target: Zero Emissions

25 Mar 2021

Twenty-one percent of the world's largest public companies currently have zero emissions targets, according to a report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and Oxford Net Zero, co-authored by STI expert Thomas Hale.

STI Experts

Of the world's 2,000 largest public enterprises, representing sales of nearly $14 billion, 21% have targets for zero emissions and most also have intermediate targets, a published reduction plan, and a reporting mechanism. Additionally, just over a quarter meet a complete set of "solidity criteria" in this area.

So states the report, 'Taking Stock: A global assessment of net zero targets' by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and Oxford Net Zero, which STI expert Thomas Hale, a professor at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, co-authored. The work is also signed by Richard Black and John Lang of the ECIU; Kate Cullen, Byron Fay and Saba Mahmood, University of Oxford; and Dr. Steve Smith of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (University of Oxford).

The study analyzed the emissions targets of more than 4,000 significant entities around the world, including all countries; the states and regions of the 25 countries with the highest emissions; all cities with a population of more than 500,000; and all companies on the Forbes Global 2000 list. It reveals that 61% of countries, 9% of states and regions of countries with the highest emissions and 13% of cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants are committed to achieving the zero emissions target. Countries committed to zero emissions account for 61% of global emissions today, as well as 68% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 52% of the world's population.

The report also reflects, however, that zero emissions commitments vary greatly in their quality. While 20% of existing zero emissions plans already meet the minimum 'solidity criteria' or 'starting point', as established by the United Nations’ 'Race to Zero' campaign, "this still leaves a lot of work to be done by governments and business leaders." Experts also express concern about the lack of clarity around carbon offset, and indicate that all entities, especially companies, must disclose how and to what extent they plan to use these offsets.

Researchers warn companies that they risk being accused of green washing "if they do not complement the objectives with adequate governance and transparency," and specify that it is also necessary to prioritize short-term action and the publication of long-term plans. They also argue that both businesses and countries will need to make progress on their proposals in the run-up to the Glasgow Climate Summit (COP-26), which will take place at the end of 2021; and that countries like Japan and the United States will have to support their zero-emission targets with "more short-term" targets by 2030.