Claim: Weak Net Zero Pledges Provide an Opportunity to Force Real Climate Action

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to researchers, companies are wrong if they think they can escape censure with a little greenwashing, because weak pledges are an opportunity to attack corporate credibility.

Net zero: despite the greenwash, it’s vital for tackling climate change

May 11, 2021 1.14am AEST
Richard Black Honorary Research Fellow, Grantham Institute, Imperial College London
Steve Smith Executive Director, Oxford Net Zero, University of Oxford
Thomas Hale Associate Professor in Public Policy, University of Oxford

It might seem odd to find supporters of climate action debating the merits of a concept that science shows to be essential for halting climate change, and which is accordingly embedded at the heart of the defining global agreement.

In some cases, concerns about the implementation of net zero targets turn into criticism of the concept itself. Recently three climate change academics including former IPCC chair Bob Watson described net zero as a “fantasy” and a “trap”, while Greta Thunberg said that “these distant targets” are about “making it seem like we’re acting without having to change”.

The rapidly growing suite of net zero pledges comes with a coherent theory of change. Firstly, if an entity is serious, it will follow its pledge by putting robust measures in place, beginning with immediate actions to cut emissions: not doing so will quickly open up the entity in question to accusations that it is not serious. 

Secondly, pledging a target means that the entity can be held to account by voters, shareholders or customers. Thirdly, to demonstrate credibility it may have to apply for accreditation from an impartial mechanism such as the science-based targets initiative, which can validate whether its plan is realistic. 

Fourthly, such accreditation mechanisms evolve over time to follow the science. For example, the UN-backed Race to Zero recently published upgraded criteria(in which we were involved); further annual strengthenings await.

Each of these four steps makes the commitment more concrete – and if it is not serious, exposes that clearly.

Read more:

For once I agree with with the climate activists.

Greenwashing or token green gestures might have worked back in the days when activists were kids who painted flowers on their hippy vans, but nowadays some of those activists run major companies.

But giving in, giving greens everything they want, is also not an option – genuine carbon net zero would be impossibly expensive.

I suspect anyone who attempts carbon appeasement in the current political environment will quickly discover they have walked into a trap. There are no easy solutions.

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Jeroen B.
May 11, 2021 10:17 am

It would be the same trap Neville Chamberlain fell into.

Joel O’Bryan
May 11, 2021 10:18 am

The climate virtue signallers will find themselves being consumed now that they’ve gotten in bed with the true believers and their Bolshevik-Marxist leanings.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
May 11, 2021 11:21 am

Yes, credibility is one pre-requisite for effectively attacking another’s credibility so good luck with all that…

John the Econ
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
May 11, 2021 1:26 pm

That’s the thing about extortion. Unless you are ignorant or totally in denial, the best you can hope for is a little time.

May 11, 2021 10:21 am

The Conversation is an official member of the CCNow Climate Propaganda cabal.

All three authors are long-term professional Climate Alarm Advocates.

Expect to see this repeated, re-posted, and cited as FACT in other publications around the world.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
May 11, 2021 10:23 am

From the original:

“Richard Black is a consultant to the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit – a non-profit think tank
Steve Smith is Executive Director of Oxford Net Zero.
Thomas Hale receives funding from UKRI as a COP26 Fellow. He serves as chair of the independent Expert Peer Review Group of the UN Race to Zero campaign.”

Richard S
Reply to  Kip Hansen
May 11, 2021 2:48 pm

The appropriate adjective for the “UN Race to Zero” is Gadarene.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
May 11, 2021 10:57 am

In other words con men!

Reply to  ResourceGuy
May 11, 2021 2:47 pm

RG ==> Sources of advocacy propaganda surely.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
May 11, 2021 7:19 pm

Pardon the gross expression, but it is apt: Climate Circle Jerk. Opinion gets cited in a journal, which is then cited as a fact.

May 11, 2021 10:28 am

Which Green Purge would that be, 4 or 5?

May 11, 2021 10:36 am

Take a knee, beg, good girl. Fertile ground for another protection racket.

May 11, 2021 10:43 am

Seems like the War Games conclusion holds with climate change as well. The only way to win is not to play.

May 11, 2021 10:45 am

Someone has to come up with new money changer schemes for London post Brexit. How else would they make a living there?

May 11, 2021 10:50 am

Richard Black. I wondered where the BBC hack had gone.

Now with a cushy job at ICL and flogging his book “Denied: The rise and fall of climate contrarianism”
Don’t think I’ll bother with it

May 11, 2021 10:55 am

This is bad when you can’t even take a flight to Antarctica with Al Gore and count that on the green score card. I guess Richard Branson will have to come up with another scheme now, maybe with Bill Gates and the Vatican this time.

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  ResourceGuy
May 11, 2021 11:11 am

Somebody has to take over for Epstein. Based on the reports I’ve seen, Gates might be getting a little jumpy.

May 11, 2021 11:15 am

When did “science” show that “climate action” was “essential” to halting climate change?

In order to claim this, a controlled experiment must have been performed and the results published. I know of no such experiment or any paper published.

So, the first sentence of this article is fakery and reading the rest is a waste of time.

May 11, 2021 11:31 am

Richard Black – ex BBC!

Small world

May 11, 2021 11:46 am

Don’t suppose it is all greenwash with firms: they are making actual and serious efforts on renewables and sustainability.

quite often because they save money (yes, they do)

M Courtney
Reply to  griff
May 11, 2021 12:07 pm

If they are saving money there is no reason to think that they are doing it for any other reason than to save money. And if the economics changes they will change tactics.

The other problem with giving in to extremists* is that nothing is ever enough. Extrmists will always demand more until it eventually ceases to be economical.

*You can spot an extremist because they refuse to ever debate with those whom they disagree with as they are 100% sure they are already 100% right – extreme.

Reply to  griff
May 11, 2021 12:09 pm

They may save their money ‘cos they get subsidies, but they sure don’t save me any.

Tony Sullivan
Reply to  griff
May 11, 2021 12:11 pm

Care to take the time to provide this forum a complete analysis of when money is saved on renewables? One use case is all that is needed. Make sure to include all the subsidies collected from governments that help fund said initiative. Look forward to your input and engagement on the topic.

Reply to  Tony Sullivan
May 11, 2021 1:21 pm

Warren Buffett is already on record with advice for wind & solar investors –
“without all the taxpayer subsidies and tax breaks, they just don’t make sense”.

Reply to  griff
May 11, 2021 7:19 pm

Nonsense, it’s all racket. Companies, like one I know very well, claimed a CO2 reduction of 59% for 2020, but the actual reduction in energy consumption was only 4.5%. The difference was carbon credits sourced out of very poor African country.

Reply to  griff
May 11, 2021 7:24 pm

Love to see more on renewables that actually save money, real money, not leveledized cost of crap. I used to think wind turbines might make sense in small, remote regions far from power lines and paying huge sums to have diesel transported to them, but then I realized they would want reliable power.

May 11, 2021 12:04 pm

I never thought I wpold say this, but I think I agree with Greta Thunberg when she says “making it seem like we’re acting without having to change”.
The difference between us is that she thinks that is a bad thing, while I think it is a good thing in that perhaps, just perhaps, people running industries might be able to come to their senses without losing too much face before it is too late.

Reply to  Oldseadog
May 11, 2021 12:06 pm

would, not wpold.
Stupid computer can’t spell.

Reply to  Oldseadog
May 11, 2021 2:00 pm

I can see where Greta’s coming from too, misguided though it may be. It’s not good though because the collection of thieves, nitwits elitists, liars, parasites, and the list goes on, are still spending trillions of dollars just talking about getting “carbon” out of the atmosphere.

OK I’ll grant you the fact that it is actually good for the planet, but those people are obviously too useless to actually do anything about anything – but they still steal the money from taxpayers. The Doom Goblin has it right.

Reply to  Oldseadog
May 11, 2021 7:27 pm

I really fear with all the lemmings racing each other to the finish, things will get really worse, with billions wasted on greenwashing and even on real renewable plans that will inevitably go bust without magic batteries and Zeppelin turbines floating in the jet stream.

May 11, 2021 12:05 pm

Modern economists tend to be of the opinion that government spending is the foundation and basis of a strong economy. All the government has to do is spend money and the people who get paid that money will feed the economic machinery. Even if the government just wastes the money on program spending, whatever company or individual who receives it will put it into a bank account and then the money will get lent out by the bank 10 times over to borrowers who will use it to build businesses and hire people. Win-win, no matter how foolish the spending, and apparently works as long as non-government investors believe they can will get paid back.
And a very large sum of money can be spent attempting to change the weather. Hence the green new deal idea.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
May 11, 2021 1:23 pm

Green new deal = a financial perpetual motion machine.

Reply to  Mr.
May 11, 2021 6:11 pm

But at some point, they must change the weather, because climate is defined as 30 years of it. Not changing the weather means not fighting climate change. It is that simple. At some point investors notice the negative results and then refuse to invest. I don’t think green new deal supporters have thought this through very well.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
May 15, 2021 7:58 am

Modern economists tend to be of the opinion that government spending
Yes, that is the theory taught in Uni. That government spending is better than private spending due to the multiplier effect.

The theory is very popular with governments, but fails to consider efficiency. Government spending is less efficient rhan the market due to limited information leading to waste thru misallocation.

Quite simple, people do a better job of spending money to match their needs than governments do

Governments on the other hand dont feel people can be trusted to spend their money wisely, so it should be taken from them and used by the government to do something useful.

May 11, 2021 12:10 pm

Why is so much garbage coming out of academia these days?

Peter W
Reply to  Lrp
May 11, 2021 2:55 pm

Classic liberal groupthink. Everybody is supposed to be equal. In order to be equal, everybody has to think alike, and just like the proverbial lemmings, it is everybody over the cliff together.

May 11, 2021 1:18 pm

Just who is Greta calling “we?” She is a child actress, groomed for angry tantrums. There is a lifetime career ahead of her in just this role.
Net Zero, and it’s spinster cousin Carbon Neutrality, are scientifically, physically impossible, and a harmful fantasy. This is propaganda.
In the article there is a four-point credo, a loyalty oath for “companies” to swear and live up to. Presumably, not making and renewing this sacramental pledge will result in dissolution, and perhaps persecution, for the sake of the planet.
Leave it to the U.N. to label a program “Race to Zero.” Marxists being zero-sum game theory thinkers, the fewer people there are to divide the spoils, the closer they are to their stateless nirvana. A race to the bottom is just their speed.
In the name of Climate Justice, Thermogeddonite Death Cultists will soon begin live sacrifices of the unworthy. Monsieur Guillotine will not debate.

May 11, 2021 2:24 pm

“Climate Actions” such as the war on fossil fuels or decreasing what we consume are exercises in futility. The year-to-year increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations is at least 99% from increases in natural emission rates; not anthropogenic emission accumulations. Climate Changes

Peter W
Reply to  Fred Haynie
May 11, 2021 3:02 pm

No, the year-to-year emissions increase is due to the mining and burning of coal, which has been storing extra carbon for millions of years. A study on the “Age of Coal” which I saw a couple of years ago, and neglected to carefully note, showed, for example, that significant amounts of coal were created and stored 65 million years ago when the asteroid killed the dinosaurs. Other amounts were stored many millions of years before that event.

Reply to  Peter W
May 11, 2021 4:08 pm

Two or three orders of magnitude are emitted from tropical oceans than from smoke stacks. Read the link “Climate Changes”

Peter W
Reply to  Fred Haynie
May 12, 2021 7:31 am

Pseudo-scientific hogwash!

old engineer
May 11, 2021 2:42 pm

This nothing more than a advertisement for Science Based Targets. And who are they you ask? their website says: “SBTi is a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Fund for Nature (WWF).”

They will, for $5000, certify that your target emission reductions are “Science Based.”
So not only are you officially green washed, but you get a wax job too. Nobody can accuse your company of not being sincere.

May 11, 2021 3:02 pm

Inside every Green blob, evolves a Green blight.

May 11, 2021 3:28 pm

There’s nothing like a bunch of Greenys squabbling over green credentials-
Smart Charging Trial | AGL

“If every electric car driver comes home from work and starts charging at the same time, while the grid is already at peak demand, it’s just going to add to the pressure. To cope with that, we may need a bigger grid, which would be expensive – and could mean higher electricity bills for everyone. But what if we could just get smarter about when we charge our cars?”

“Smart charging means we can communicate with your charger, or car, to start charging when the demand for electricity is lower – like overnight or in the middle of the day. And since most cars are plugged in for longer than they actually need to charge, we can be flexible with charging times.

Smart charging could have other benefits too – like soaking up excess solar generation.

It’s all about efficiency. Our trial will explore the best way to manage electric car charging – and we’ll share the benefits with you along the way.”

Beware of Greeks bearing horsepower methinks but they’re not fooling the virtuous and righteous-
Greenpeace accuses AGL of ‘greenwashing’ its image with 2050 carbon neutrality pledge – ABC News

May 11, 2021 3:35 pm

PS: Just in case you thought for one moment that AGL would be paying for an EV charging trial out of their own pocket perish the thought with these virtue signalling subsidy miners-
AGL Electric Vehicle Orchestration Trial – Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)

michael hart
May 11, 2021 3:42 pm

I largely agree.

On general principles, I’m not a great fan of lying.
But promises of “net zero” are usually just the lies of corporations who are eager to comply with the current ridiculous aims of climate activism, while having no serious aims of meeting those goals.

Of course, the more educated among them know that the green goals are totally unachievable without returning humans to the bronze age. The rest just run with the herd, whichever way it is currently going. But they probably cause more net economic and social damage, with no intention of ever educating themselves about the topic (just like the BBC).

Who is worse? I dunno.

Rick C
May 11, 2021 5:06 pm

The message to business is “Self immolate or the woke SJW’s will burn your business down for you.” Who’s going to finally stand up to the thugs?

May 11, 2021 5:44 pm

I disagree. The lefties have too many goals, often in conflict with each other. This means that (1) it is impossible to come up with any internally consistent plans for meeting these goals, (2) no matter what companies do, they cannot be in compliance, (3) it is the equivalent of California’s Prop 65 warnings; everyone ignores them because they are all over.

When everything is a crisis, nothing is.

May 11, 2021 8:52 pm

They are weak pledges for a reason.

Do the math, and while your at it, look for the text labels on the graphic.

After Trillions (with a “T”) of $, the wind and solar part doesn’t have enough room for the font size needed to call it out. Just sayin>

Data & Statistics – IEA

May 11, 2021 11:01 pm

With this allegation China is right, maybe people have forgotten the quickly buried news about her German minder and her parents tuition, she is a child actress and obviously learns her lines and performances.

The role models are the before WW2 German Hitler Youth Group girls, and boys, even the pigtail hairstyle.

Isn’t it obvious, and now a new one from Mexico is on the climate stage.

May 11, 2021 11:05 pm

Advertising, sales and marketing works, people are so gullible, but not if the same is repeated over and over and over because the people become bored and stop taking notice.

So Greta is now being replaced by a young person from Mexico, a new star is released with full public relations support and media management.

Vincent Causey
May 11, 2021 11:49 pm

It is said that the left eat their own. Now they are devouring all those cowardly companies that thought they could appease the green god.

May 12, 2021 4:35 am

In all of this,the message to understand is there will be no “net zero emissions” without “ negative carbon technology”( Carbon Capture and Storage).
John Kerry says that even getting to “ net zero” still requires CO2 to be then removed from the atmosphere.
No carbon offsets.
Just zero emissions followed by CCS.
It is all explained clearly by Professor Simon Lewis of University College,London in The Guardian, 3 March 2021,“The climate crisis can’t be solved by carbon accounting tricks”.
So there are going to be plenty of sad organisations claiming “ carbon neutrality” when they find they have to start again because the sums they paid to someone, somewhere to plant some trees don’t count.
The Paris Accord is the new Tar-Baby story.

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