‘Rank deception’ UN chief slams corporate greenwashing at Cop27

‘This toxic cover-up could push our world over the climate cliff. The sham must end’

Samuel Webb
Tuesday 08 November 2022 16:02 GMT
What is Cop27 and why does it matter?

The UN Secretary-General has urged zero tolerance for net-zero ‘greenwashing’ – where corporations celebrate their ethical and environmental initiatives to divert attention from more dubious activities

António Guterres praised the growing number of governments and organisations pledging to be carbon-free but says bogus ‘net-zero’ pledges to cover up fossil fuel expansion are “reprehensible”.

He said: “The problem is that the criteria and benchmarks for these net-zero commitments have varying levels of rigour and loopholes wide enough to drive a diesel truck through.

“We must have zero tolerance for net-zero greenwashing. It is rank deception.

“This toxic cover-up could push our world over the climate cliff. The sham must end.”

He made the comments at the launch of the report of the High Level Expert Group on Net-Zero Commitments of Businesses, Financial Institutions, Cities and Regions.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg accused Cop27 of greenwashing

At Cop26 in Glasgow last year the Secretary-General announced the appointment of a group of 17 independent experts to tackle ‘confusion and deficit of credibility’ over net-zero targets of non-state entities like businesses, financial institutions, and city authorities.

Catherine McKenna, chair of the UN-appointed expert group and former Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said the report provides a crucial roadmap to bring integrity to net zero commitments by industry, financial institutions, cities, and regions,

She said: “After consulting with hundreds of individuals and organizations and incorporating the latest research and science, we have a roadmap to ensure that net zero commitments by industry, financial institutions, cities and regions are ambitious, transparent and credible..

“This is about cutting emissions, not corners. Our roadmap provides clear standards and criteria that must be followed when developing net zero commitments. Right now, the planet cannot afford delays, excuses, or more greenwashing.”

The report recommends that non-state actors should be disqualified from claiming to be net zero while continuing to build or invest in new fossil fuel supply, deforestation, and other environmentally-destructive activities.

Businesses must also be stopped from lobbying to undermine government climate policies either directly or through trade associations or other bodies.

Guterres says ‘shadow markets’ for carbon credits cannot undermine genuine emission reduction efforts and targets must be reached through real emissions cuts.

Last month Greta Thunberg spoke out against the fast fashion industry for greenwashing and called on influencers and the media to raise awareness of the link between fashion and the climate crisis.

Recent years have seen a multitude of fast fashion brands make claims about sustainability. Zara’s “Join Life” campaign includes pieces made from recycled wool and organic cotton, while each item in H&M’s “Conscious” collection is made up of at least 20-50 per cent sustainable materials.

However, an investigation by the Changing Markets Foundation (CMF) earlier this year found evidence that some brands’ claims did not stand up.

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