The issue with net-zero emissions pledges, according to climate experts

Scientists and climate experts are saying that without a universal accounting standard, many corporate promises on reducing emissions may be ineffective, ABC News reported Nov. 5. 

Experts are criticizing the "net" part of net-zero emissions promises, arguing that they rely too much on carbon offsets instead of focusing on reducing emission production in the first place.

"What that means is relying on offsets, where I don't actually 'zero' my emissions, I don't stop completely, but I compensate for them," Rahul Tongia, PhD, a senior fellow at the Energy Security and Climate Initiative at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., told ABC

Joeri Rogelj, PhD, the director of research at the Imperial College of London's Grantham Institute, told ABC that companies "are not focusing on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, but rather are buying very cheap offset credits, not all of which are very reliable or trustworthy."

The offsets can be nature-based or technology-based. Planting trees is a common nature-based carbon offset, but is an overused practice that is often fraught with environmental justice issues and relies on land in the developing world. Technology offsets also present a challenge, as the technology is still rudimentary and hard to scale. The world's largest carbon-capture site opened in Iceland in October, but over one year, it can only capture three seconds' worth of humanity's emissions, according to one climate scientist. 

Although they have good intentions, net-zero pledges are too vague and lack specificity in purpose and action needed, according to ABC

A recent United Nations report showed that if emissions continue to be released at the pre-COVID-19 rate, the world will surpass the 1.5 degree Celsius mark set by the Paris Climate Agreement in eight years. Heading over the 1.5 degree Celsius mark would make most nations unsafe to live in. 

Wolfgang Knorr, a researcher at the Lund University in Sweden, told ABC that companies need to be honest with themselves and admit their dependence on cheap energy, otherwise he thinks "there's a big risk that net-zero pledges will have actually even a perverse incentive to just carry on."

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