• FutureTrack

This Week in Sustainability News 08.02

This past week was filled with interesting sustainability and climate news, we’ve summarised the top stories below.


World’s largest companies exaggerate climate progress, fail to meet targets, and lack integrity in net-zero plans

  • New research has shown that the world’s 25 largest companies’ emissions reduction plans are not sufficiently robust, with the majority over-relying on carbon offsetting, lacking short-term reduction targets, and excluding key emission sources from carbon accounts.

  • Collectively, the companies were found to have excluded approximately 60% of their value chain (Scope 3) emissions from their targets, with only three committing to decarbonising over 90% of their value chain emissions.

  • Overall, if the strategies for each company were implemented, there would be an emissions reduction of only 40% at most; contrasting with the 100% suggested by the term net-zero.

  • The study’s authors expressed surprise and disappointment at their findings and reported that company’s “ambitious-sounding headline claims all too often lack real substance, which can mislead both consumers and the regulators that are core to guiding their strategic direction”.

  • The findings have led the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to be criticised as a greenwashing platform, as 18 out of the 25 companies’ plans reviewed in the study had been approved by the SBTi as compatible with 1.5C or 2C of global warming.

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Plastic credits: greenwash or crisis-solver?

  • Similar to carbon emissions trading, companies can purchase plastic credits to ‘offset’ their own plastic production and pollution.

  • These plastic credits fund projects that clear and recycle plastic waste from the environment.

  • Some experts believe the credits to be a key part of solving the waste crisis, while others argue the credits only remedy the symptoms, without tackling the root of the problem.

  • There are also concerns that companies could mislead consumers by using claims of ‘plastic neutrality’ or ‘offsetting’, without taking actions to reduce their plastic waste generation.

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EU to carbon tax shipping emissions

  • The shipping industry is responsible for approximately 3% of global emissions per year, and its impact is expected to rise by 90-130% by 2050.

  • The UN body responsible for shipping, the IMO, has been criticised for its failure to impose emissions regulations within the industry, leading to the EU introducing its own measures.

  • The EU has proposed a number of new shipping measures, including an emissions trading scheme (ETS). The scheme will mean that ships journeying within the EU will have to buy carbon allowances to cover the entire voyage, while ships journeying internationally, but starting or finishing in an EU port, will have to cover half of the emissions from the voyage.

  • Funds raised through the ETS will be directed into the EU’s innovation fund, which supports innovations in climate technology and infrastructure.

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Emissions reduction plans for land-use and farming ‘urgently’ needed

  • While land-use and farming emissions comprise approximately 12% of the UK’s footprint, the government’s Net Zero Strategy fails to set ambitious reduction targets or go into appropriate detail regarding the decarbonisation of farming.

  • New research from the WWF argues the UK urgently needs to remedy this by setting legally-binding, strict climate targets, that are backed by plans to utilise nature-friendly farming techniques.

  • Nature-friendly and regenerative farming techniques have the potential to restore biodiversity and deliver even greater emissions reductions than previously thought. The approaches could help to reduce emissions equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road.

  • The WWF also reported that the government should encourage shifts towards plant-based foods, high-quality meat, and seasonal produce, which would help to further reduce emissions.

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