Net zero is crucial for tackling climate change despite greenwashing fears
10 May 2021
Many climate activists have reacted by pointing out the flaws in some net zero targets, focusing in particular on oil and gas companies that plan to pay for carbon offsets instead of dealing with the emissions caused by burning their products.
Others have concerns about the actual concept of net zero targets . Recently an article by three climate change academics including former IPCC chair Bob Watson described net zero as a “dangerous trap”, while Greta Thunberg said tweeted that “these distant targets” are about “making it seem like we’re acting without having to change.”
Activists are right to highlight the loose nature of some pledges, particularly from fossil fuel corporates. However, there are early indications that this is more than a theory. The UK, EU and US all recently set 2050 net zero targets and then upgraded their 2030 targets.
There is a need to differentiate serious targets from those set for greenwashing. Shareholders, voters and customers can demand organisations stick to their pledges, while accreditation mechanisms are evolving over time to follow the science. For example, the UN-backed Race to Zero recently published upgraded criteria.
Despite any flaws, widespread strengthening of net zero targets offers the most viable route to implementing the Paris Agreement and so preventing the most dangerous impacts of climate change.
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