Stronger together: Signposting to credible net zero
The sheer number of climate tracking initiatives has become sanity straining. We're now pointing you in the direction of the most credible.
16 NOV 2023
Today the Net Zero Tracker starts signposting to a slew of accountability-geared initiatives to provide our tens of thousands of users with a more comprehensive view of what ‘good net zero’ looks like. It’s the start of a broader mission to alleviate the confusion that bedevils net zero, explains Net Zero Tracker lead John Lang.
Both the science of climate change and its solution are head-bangingly difficult to navigate for those brave enough to step in. Five years of nations, regions and companies pledging net zero targets or claiming carbon neutrality — many disingenuously to obscure ‘pollution as usual’ — has done to net zero what thirty years of disinformation did to climate science.
The Net Zero Tracker already provides paths through the thicket. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says that net zero suffers from ‘a deficit of credibility and a surplus of confusion.’ Tackling one without the other is like trying to treat a virus with hot pumpkin soup – it may make you feel better but it won’t solve the problem. Our job to date has therefore been two-fold:
Collect data on common credibility gaps inherent across most net zero targets. For example, whether a company covers its full value chain of emissions or if it intends to apply conditions on the use of offset credits.
Make the data we collect intelligible by presenting it in a uniform and comparable way. Tens of thousands of users can then more easily distinguish a target across a spectrum from genuine to greenwash. (We also provide visual context in reports and infographics to help alleviate confusion.)
Another source of confusion has surfaced of late. The massive proliferation of net zero targets over recent years has been joined by a proliferation of voluntary initiatives jostling to track, assess and validate them. But if greater transparency on the quality of companies’ targets was the intention, greater confusion on who is credibly assessing what has been the result.
Signposting for clarity's sake
1. Net Zero Scorecard — Energy & Climate Intelligence (ECIU)
Where it all began for the Net Zero Tracker. Back when the term ‘net zero’ was still only known by a small cadre of scientists and policy wonks, my former boss Richard Black had an idea to turn an infographic of mine into a tracker — well, more a scorecard at first. It was only when ECIU teamed up with the University of Oxford that we could formally claim to have given birth to a tracker.
Nowadays, ECIU hosts the original scorecard where nations are benchmarked according to the status of their net zero targets. ‘In law’ is considered more binding than ‘in policy document’; ‘Declaration / pledge’ is more serious than ‘proposed / in discussion.’
2. The Climate Action Tracker — Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute
Still the undisputed king of independent climate trackers, the NewClimate Institute and Climate Analytics-run Climate Action Tracker (or CAT) provides the world’s most rigorous assessment of national-level decarbonisation efforts, including net zero targets. It assesses 40 nations in total, measuring their efforts against the Paris goal of ‘holding warming well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.’
All net zero targets assessed by CAT are now linked to their corresponding Net Zero Tracker profiles. e.g. Australia
3. Climate Change Laws of the World — Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
Climate Change Laws of the World is more about context than assessments. Powered by Climate Policy Radar, users can search the full text of over 5,000 laws, policies and UNFCCC submissions from every nation in the world. It’s an extraordinary marriage of research and AI that highlights the ‘governance pathways’ to the credible implementation of net zero targets.
All nations on the Net Zero Tracker are now linked directly to CCLW. e.g. Fiji
1. LobbyMap 'Performance Band' Scores — InfluenceMap
The alignment of companies’ climate commitments with their lobbying firepower is critical to creating ambition loops where private sector leadership encourages and reinforces ambitious government action. InfluenceMap leads transparency in this area, maintaining the LobbyMap database which scrutinises climate policy engagement of more than 500 companies and 250 industry associations globally.
New InfluenceMap research released today, “Net Zero Greenwash”: The Gap Between Corporate Commitments and their Policy Engagement, finds that corporate net zero or similar targets are rarely matched by support for government policy, with 58% of almost 300 companies from the Forbes 2,000 found to be at risk of net zero greenwash due to their climate policy engagement.
2. Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor — NewClimate Institute
The Net Zero Tracker has to trade-off between the breadth of the entities we cover and the depth we interrogate any single entity. The annual Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor (CCRM) dodges that trade-off by concentrating all of its energy on depth, and depth alone. NewClimate Institute analysts spend upwards of seven days per company untangling the strategic ambiguity that more often than not punctuates 100+ page corporate sustainability reports.
The CCRM only has the resources to assess 25 or so major companies a year, but extrapolate its results and the alarm bells are deafening. To take just one example, its latest 2023 report found that 24 major multinational companies’ net zero pledges translated into a commitment to reduce just 36% of their combined emissions.
Forty Net Zero Tracker company profiles are now linked to CCRM assessments, soon to be joined by many more.
Over time the Net Zero Tracker will be adding other signs to the post. The likes of the Transitions Pathway Initiative, ClimateAction100+ and the Global Climate Action Portal are just a handful of the obvious candidates.