This morning (12 June), saw the third Net Zero Stocktake report presentation in Bonn, Germany as part of the first week of the Bonn Climate Conference.
The report, organised by the Net Zero Tracker Project (NZT) – jointly run by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), the Data-Driven EnviroLab (DDL), NewClimate Institute and Oxford Net Zero – collects data on net zero targets set globally and examines their integrity.
Following the last Stocktake in March 2021, the panel discussed the 2023 report’s findings including the somewhat unambitious targets of some of the world’s biggest companies net zero targets.
“47% of the Forbes 2000 listing, global major companies have set net zero targets. And this is a significant increase from two and a half years ago. When you look at the country level numbers, you can see that net zero targets or targets with equivalent terms are most popular in the EU,” said Dr Takeshi Kuramochi, senior researcher at NewClimateInsititue on today’s (12 June) panel.
“But net zero targets do not necessarily mean ambitious and robust targets,” continued Kuramochi.
The NZT assessed both corporate and sub-national targets to gauge whether they meet the six quality criteria set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) campaign which was updated in June 2022.
These criteria – dubbed the five ‘P’s’ – include:
- Pledge a formal net zero target
- Plan and publicly disclose a Transition Plan within 12 months of joining Raze to Zero
- Proceed with immediate action to carry out your net zero plan
- Publish a public report tracking both interim and longer-term targets
- Persuade others to join by aligning external policy and engagement
“Our analysis shows that a percentage of states and region cities and companies that met all six criteria remain below 5%, showing very limited progress since our 2022 assessment,” revealed Dr Kuramochi.
“We can see that the number of entities for net zero targets increase, but the percentage of these net zero targets that met the quality criteria have remained slow.”
The same is true for fossil fuel companies. Although there was a sharp increase from 51 of the 114 world’s largest fossil fuel companies having net zero targets in June 2022, to 75 in June 2023, the report showed that “almost no companies have made substantive commitments that are in line with the fossil fuel phase out that is required to meet the Paris Agreement goal.”
Overall, the report found a that net zero targets were most popular in the EU, however, the NZT could not “identify any kind of emission reduction targets for 37% of the world’s largest companies with even the G7 percentage barely surpassing a quarter.
“These are very concerning trends. Not having any emission reduction targets in 2023 is a major problem,” summarised Dr Kuramochi.
Despite highlighting these “concerning trends” the overall message of the report was fairly positive.
National net zero targets now represent 88% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which is up by 27% from December 2020 and 85% of the global population.
This is due to the number of countries establishing a net zero target having grown from 124 in December 2020 to 149.
Dr Angel Hsu, director of the data-driven environment lab at University of North Carolina, added that governance and policies to implement these targets are also catching up with the proportion of net zero targets set in governance and policies has increased drastically from 7% in December 2020 to 75% today.
Concluding the panel discussion, Dr Thomas Hale, a professor in public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government department at the University of Oxford, discussed the opportunity presented for countries to add credibility to their targets.
“Now countries have a real opportunity. They have an opportunity to use the growing trend toward net zero regulation to help bring credibility to their targets and to help drive implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and they also have an opportunity to enhance coordination across jurisdictions and domains.
“We need to recognise that voluntary action, voluntary standards drive forward the frontier of best practice. But you also need somebody that levels the playing field behind that and how all actors, all parts of the economy get to alignment with global climate goals. And we’re actually seeing some dynamics of that over the past few years.
“We see regulations coming up and a whole range of different areas from procurement. So what governments buy, what conditions they impose on people trying to sell the government goods and services, we see across a whole suite of the rules that structure, the economy.
“The real opportunity here is to actually take this year from a scientific principle to something that’s actually the bedrock of how the economy is organised. And the voluntary targets and actions that we’ve seen emerging can be an important lever to help countries move in that direction. So this is the big opportunity now with the global stocktake, showing the need to increase action, there’s an easy and compelling and attractive set of options for countries to put these standards into regulations, and to use them to enhance the credibility and to drive up implementation of their own national targets.”