Lawyers unveil principles for net-zero goals

22nd October 2020

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  • Sustainability


Maritza Vargas

Environmental lawyers at ClientEarth have unveiled a set of principles for companies and investors to ensure that their climate targets are aligned with net-zero emissions.

More than a thousand firms have set targets to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 under the UN's 'Race to Zero' campaign alone, however, ClientEarth warned yesterday that there is a “clear gap between ambition and action“.

It highlighted a report claiming that none of the world's top oil and gas companies are aligned with the Paris Agreement, and said that a principles-based approach should underpin net-zero strategies.

These must be:

  • Reasonable: Paris-aligned targets, assumptions and methodologies must be reasonable, precautionary, evidence-based and regularly updated in line with the best available science
  • Transparent: targets, assumptions, uncertainties, methodologies, performance and impacts must be transparently disclosed
  • Accountable: decision-makers must be incentivised and accountable for meeting targets.

“Businesses and investors are finally setting Paris-alignment and net-zero targets – which is crucially needed,“ said ClientEarth lawyer Daniel Wiseman. “But unless these targets are supported by strategies that are reasonable, transparent and include strong accountability mechanisms, there is a significant risk that stakeholders will be misled.“

Each principle is strengthened by several non-negotiable 'red lines', which provide detail on what is required in practice.

For example, under the reasonable principle, one requirement is that a firm must adopt a strategy setting out short, medium and long-term goals to achieve its net-zero objective, which must include both 2025 and 2030 targets.

This means that a company which only sets out long-term targets for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 has not gone far enough.

“These principles can help guide firms to develop and implement meaningful net zero strategies,“ Wiseman continued. “This is in their best interests, and the best interests of all of their stakeholders in addressing systemic climate change risks.

“They can also help us to identify greenwashing and hold firms that are not going far enough to account.“

Image credit: iStock


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