UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the launch of a new High-Level Expert Group tasked with developing standards used to set, measure and track the net zero commitments of non-state entities ranging from businesses and investors to cities and regions.

The launch of the expert group comes amidst a proliferation of commitments by companies to achieve “net zero” in their businesses, and net zero portfolio pledges by many investors, but with little clarity on the definitions and measurement of these targets. While many companies have recently announced their own net zero ambitions, many of the goals are either not science-aligned, or company actions are insufficient to reach those goals. In September, the Science-Based Targets initiative released study results that found that of the more than 4,200 companies in the G20 that have set climate targets, only 20% are science-based. Similarly, a report from professional services firm Accenture found that the vast majority of companies are not on track to hit their net zero climate goals.

Guterres said:

“Despite growing pledges of climate action, global emissions are at an all-time high. They continue to rise. The latest science shows that climate disruption is causing havoc in every region – right now. We are in a race against time to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees. And we are losing.”

The new Expert Group aims to make recommendations before the end of 2022 across four areas, including current standards and definitions for setting net zero targets, credibility criteria to assess objectives, measurement and reporting of net zero pledges, processes for verifying progress toward net zero commitments and decarbonization plans, and a roadmap to communicate standards and criteria into international and national regulations.

Guterres added:

“Governments have the lion’s share of responsibility to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century. Especially the G20.  But we also urgently need every business, investor, city, state and region to walk the talk on their net-zero promises. “

According to the UN Secretary-General, the formation of the new group aims to meet the need discussed at the COP26 climate conference for more credible and robust standards and criteria for measuring, analyzing, and reporting net-zero emissions pledges by these organizations.

The new expert group will be chaired by Ms. Catherine McKenna, former Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

McKenna said:

“The recent avalanche of net-zero pledges by businesses, investors, cities and regions will be vital to keep 1.5°C alive and to build towards a safe and healthy planet, but only if all pledges have transparent plans, robust near-term action, and are implemented in full.”