Just 4% of top companies meet UN climate target guidelines, study says

07 11 2023 | 21:06Simon Jessop / REUTERS

 Half of the world's 2,000 biggest listed companies have set a target to get to net-zero emissions by mid-century, but just a fraction meet tough United Nations guidelines for what constitutes a quality pledge, a report on Monday showed.

Net Zero Tracker, an independent data consortium including Oxford University, said corporate targets from Forbes2000 index companies had jumped 40% to 1,003 in October 2023, from 702 in June 2022, covering two-thirds of revenues, some $27 trillion.

However, just 4% of the targets meet the criteria laid down by the U.N.'s Race to Zero campaign, for example by covering all emissions, starting to cut them immediately, and including an annual progress update on interim and longer term targets.

Of those to set a target, just 37% had one that covered their Scope 3 emissions, or those tied to a company's value chain. Just 13% had a quality threshold for the use of carbon offsets.

The pace of change among governments and corporates is set to form a central part of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai starting in late November.

"A clear line in the sand on net zero has surfaced. Countless net zero targets are credibility light, but now we can say for certain that most of the world's largest listed companies are on the right side of the line on net zero intent," said John Lang, Project Lead, the Net Zero Tracker.

"With credible net zero target-setting a proxy for forward-thinking, future-proofing companies, it begs a simple question: are the firms we’re investing in, working for and buying from on the right or wrong side of the line?"

As well as companies, the Net Zero Tracker tracks pledges made by nations, states and regions, and cities using machine and human data analysis.

Alongside Oxford Net Zero, the consortium includes The Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU); Data-Driven EnviroLab (UNC) and the NewClimate Institute.

Reporting by Simon Jessop Editing by Mark Potter

PHOTO: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo