7 April 2022
Expert Group to Build Accountability for Net Zero Pledges
UN Photo/Kibae Park/Sipa Press
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According to the UN Secretariat, a lack of standards and criteria for net-zero pledges from the private sector and subnational governments is diluting the actual reduction of absolute emissions.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed a group of independent experts to focus on ensuring these pledges are matched by action.

The HLEG will provide a report to the Secretary-General with its findings and recommendations within 9 to 12 months of its first meeting, which will take place in early 2022.

The UN Secretary-General has appointed a high-level group of experts to increase credibility and accountability for net-zero pledges by businesses, financial institutions, and local and regional governments. The independent group is expected to issue recommendations within 9 to 12 months of its first meeting.

The High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities (HLEG) was launched on 31 March 2022 in New York, US. With its members appointed by the UN Secretary-General, the composition aims to cover, among other constituencies and areas of expertise: ESG, carbon and climate disclosure standard setters; securities and accounting regulators; regulatory and policy bodies supervising the global financial system; leading global civil society organizations including youth; and climate science.

According to the UN Secretariat, “there is now a perceived lack of clear, transparency, and generally accepted sets of standards and criteria” for net-zero pledges from non-State actors. This enables greenwashing and other ways of diluting the actual reduction of absolute emissions, such as undue reliance on offsets.

The Group aims to ensure more credible and robust standards and criteria for measuring, analysing and reporting on the net-zero pledges by non-State entities, ensuring the highest standards of environmental integrity and transparency.

The Group’s recommendations will address:

  • current standards and definitions for setting net-zero targets, and any needed additional elements to maximize integrity for net-zero targets;
  • credibility criteria used to assess the objectives, measurement and reporting of net-zero pledges;
  • processes for verifying progress towards net-zero commitments and decarbonization plans, including processes for assessing aggregate impact; and
  • a road map to translate standards and criteria into international and national regulations.

The Group will be chaired by Catherine McKenna, former Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change. The other members – all working in their personal capacities – are: Amanda Starbuck, Arunabha Ghosh, Bill Hare, Camila Escobar, Carlos Lopes, Günther Thallinger, Helena Viñes Fiestas, Jessica Omukuti, Joaquim Levy, Malango Mughogho, Mary Nichols, Kahori Miyake, Oumar Tatam Ly, Rod Carr and Zhou Xiaochuan. Further members may also be added.

At the launch of the Group, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that while governments bear “the lion’s share” of responsibility for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, there is also an urgent need for contributions from other stakeholders, such as businesses, investors, cities, states, and regions. In many cases these actors have made net-zero promises, and Guterres said ensuring these pledges are matched by action – “walking the talk” – is the focus of the new Expert Group.

Guterres added that he expects the Group to “consult widely, extensively and transparently to hear the perspectives and views of all stakeholders.” The Group will be advised on scientific and policy matters by a UN system group on climate which is chaired by the UN Deputy Secretary-General: the Core Group of Climate Principals. The Core Group includes the WMO, ILO, UNFCCC, UNEP, UNDP, DESA, SRSG for Sustainable Energy for All, SRSG for Oceans, and UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance.

The High-Level Expert Group will be supported by a technical secretariat within the Climate Action Team in the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General, funded by donor resources. [Press release]

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