Energy & Environment

Few corporations on pace to reach long-term net zero emissions targets: research

FILE – The Liddell Power Station, left, and Bayswater Power Station, coal-powered thermal power station are pictured near Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley, Australia on Nov. 2, 2021. Australia’s Senate has voted, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, to ensure the government’s elevated target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 43% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade is enshrined in law. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

More than 90 percent of large companies that have stated commitments to reaching net-zero emissions will miss such goals at their current pace, according to a new report.

Among 2,000 global corporations analyzed by consulting firm Accenture, about a third, 34 percent, have a public net-zero commitment — an increase from last year, the report states. However, 93 percent are on track to miss their goals by midcentury unless they quicken their pace.

Even an “accelerated scenario,” in which the pace of emissions cuts doubles through the end of the decade and quintuples through 2050, still means 40 percent of companies will miss their goals — and a quarter will miss the target by 2050, which climatologists have called the deadline to stave off catastrophic warming.

The report found that the average operational emissions cut among companies with net-zero targets between 2011 and 2020 was 18 percent. When controlling for reduced emissions in the early COVID-19 pandemic, researchers also analyzed reductions through 2019, and found that only the companies with net-zero targets made meaningful emissions cuts during that period.

Accenture’s analysis also indicated that multiple emissions targets resulted in broader cuts.

Among companies with net-zero targets throughout the supply chain, emissions dropped 18 percent between 2011 and 2020 and 5 percent between 2011 and 2019, according to the report. By comparison, emissions only decreased 1 percent between 2011 and 2020 for those focused on more direct emissions — known as scope 1 and scope 2 emissions — and increased 3 percent from 2011 to 2019.

“This report – while extremely worrying with regards to the delivery trajectory on net zero – shows a clear pathway for companies to create value and impact at a time when capital markets, governments and other organizations will create even more pressure to deliver on targets set through transparency, comparability and consistency,” Peter Lacy, Accenture’s global Sustainability Services lead and chief responsibility officer, said in a statement.

Environmental advocates have been vocal skeptics of major companies’ practical application of net-zero goals. A February report from NewClimate Institute and Carbon Market Watch indicated that 25 large companies with net-zero pledges are on track to cut emissions about 40 percent, alleging the firms use accounting sleight of hand to inflate their progress.

Tags emissions reduction emissions report net zero
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