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: U.N.’s Guterres wants corporations and investors to ‘walk the talk’ on net-zero emissions pledges

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The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has launched a new group that he says will keep the string of net-zero emissions pledges from businesses, investors, cities and regions on track and more transparent along the way.

And, Guterres hopes, the pressure and guidance will speed up the implementation of these emissions vows, many of which are still decades out.

The launch of the High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities comes amid a worsening climate crisis
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and growing urgency for all commitments to be transparent, credible, backed by robust implementation plans, and converted into real emissions cuts as rapidly as possible, the U.N. says.

Read: Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway flagged by climate-watching investor advocate for no transparency on emissions

“Despite growing pledges of climate action, global emissions are at an all-time high. They continue to rise. The latest science shows that climate disruption is causing havoc in every region — right now. We are in a race against time to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees. And we are losing,” Guterres said at a Thursday briefing.

“Governments have the lion’s share of responsibility to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century. Especially the G-20. But we also urgently need every business, investor, city, state and region to walk the talk on their net-zero promises,” he said.

The group’s recommendations for higher ambition and environmental integrity will address four areas:

Current standards and definitions for setting net-zero targets; 

Credibility criteria used to assess the objectives, measurement and reporting of net-zero pledges; 

Processes for verification and accounting of progress towards net-zero commitments and reported decarbonization plans; and 

A roadmap to translate standards and criteria into international and national level regulations. 

At the U.N. climate change conference last year in Glasgow (COP26), the Secretary-General flagged a clear need for more credible and robust standards and criteria for measuring, analyzing and reporting net-zero emissions pledges by non-State entities.

The “expert group” will be gender-balanced and will consist of respected and independent experts, drawn from a diverse group of countries and regions, the U.N. said.

The group will be chaired by Catherine McKenna, former Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change.  

Read: SEC’s landmark climate-change ruling could demand companies account for pollution they don’t directly create

“The recent avalanche of net-zero pledges by businesses, investors, cities and regions will be vital to keep 1.5°C alive and to build towards a safe and healthy planet, but only if all pledges have transparent plans, robust near-term action, and are implemented in full,” McKenna said. 

The newly formed group will make recommendations before the end of the year.

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