Report: Corporate climate goals are not what they say they are

BERLIN (AP) — Business climate commitments aren’t always as green as they seem. A new report concludes that top brands are exaggerating how ambitious their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are – in effect, misleading consumers, investors and governments.

The report published on Monday by European environmental think tanks NewClimate Institute and Carbon Market Watch examined 24 companies, including KitKat maker Nestlé, French retailer Carrefour and automaker Volkswagen. Only one company – carrier Maersk – was found to have climate plans with “reasonable integrity”, while the rest were rated moderate to very low.

“For most companies, we found that their climate strategies are deficient,” said Thomas Day, a researcher at the NewClimate Institute and co-author of the report.

The actual emissions cuts resulting from the companies’ plans would be less than half of those needed through 2030 to help meet the Paris climate agreement’s target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), it found in its second annual review.

The researchers also questioned companies’ pledges to achieve “net zero” emissions.arguing that most consumers would understand it to mean largely stopping the release of planet-warming gas into the atmosphere.

“These net-zero pledges actually amount to a commitment to reduce these companies’ emissions by just 36%,” Day said. The companies claim that the remainder will be removed from the atmosphere by artificial or natural means – so-called carbon offsets – or simply remove large portions of their emissions from the count.

This was the case, for example, of Carrefour, which excludes 80% of its stores from the net zero target for 2040, according to the report. The company was among four corporations rated as having “very low integrity” climate plans, along with American Airlines, food processing company JBS and Samsung Electronics.

Carrefour said it disagreed with the report, adding that its climate efforts had been validated by independent experts – a position also taken by Switzerland-based Nestle, whose targets were labeled “low integrity”.

“We will continue to pursue a holistic strategy to reduce our emissions and remove carbon from the atmosphere through measures that bring benefits to the millions of people connected to our company’s operations,” Nestlé said in a statement.

Volkswagen, whose targets were also assessed as having “low integrity”, said it was committed to meeting the Paris accord target, noting that it plans to invest 52 billion euros ($55.5 billion) in electric vehicles by 2026.

“We support the concern of the NewClimate Institute to achieve the greatest possible transparency and comparability in the climate goals of large companies”, he says.

The report’s authors said their findings highlight the need for greater transparency and tighter regulation of corporate climate efforts, to prevent companies from greening their environmental impact. — particularly when making ‘zero net’ claims.

“In many ways, carbon-neutral products are similar to cancer-neutral cigarettes,” said co-author Gilles Dufrasne of Carbon Market Watch. “There is no robust scientific basis behind these claims, and most consumers are completely confused as to what these claims would mean.”


The Associated Press’ environmental and climate coverage is supported by several private foundations. See more about the AP climate initiative here. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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