The Great Carbon Con Is Coming to an End

One year later At COP26, the United Nations climate change conference, held in November 2021, the number of FTSE 100 companies pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 increased by 37 percent to 82 percent. Among the supporters were some of the biggest companies in the world: Amazon, Apple, Ford, IBM, JP Morgan, Mars and many others. But climate protection isn’t just a concern for industrial giants: it’s a growing concern for every company as scrutiny increases.

Making a promise is the easy part. In 2023 we will see companies held accountable for what they actually deliver. Organizations will be forced to demonstrate that the commitments they have made make sense and demonstrate transparently and continuously that they are taking the necessary actions to reduce their carbon emissions.

The growing skepticism about overambitious, opaque and even fraudulent climate promises is fueling companies. We’re already seeing customers voting with their wallets, employees selecting employers primarily based on net-zero credentials, and investors making decisions about what to fund based on concrete climate action. To put that in numbers, up to 60 percent of millennials are willing to pay more for truly sustainable products; two-thirds of people are more likely to work for a company with strong and sensible environmental policies; and research from Amazon found that up to 83 percent of investors want to invest in more sustainable startups.

For too long, companies have invested in traditional carbon offsets—they paid someone else to reduce future emissions to offset their own. Emission avoidance offsets include clean cookstove projects, renewable energy investments and forest protection.

As attention turns to 2023 delivery, there will be a growing awareness that these traditional offsets are at best a non-net-zero distraction and at worst outright fraudulent. Until now, carbon avoidance offsets have been an easy and cost-effective way for companies to tick the sustainability box by telling a story of commitment and willingness to tackle the climate crisis. In 2021, more than $1 billion worth of offsets were sold.

In 2023, companies feeling pressure from all sides will have to look for other solutions if they want to demonstrate performance. For example, awareness of CO2 removal technologies has grown. There is now a broader understanding and acceptance that these technologies, which actively suck carbon from the atmosphere through direct air capture, enhanced weathering and other methods, are critical to meeting our global climate goals. And progress has been made — in 2022, many major players in Silicon Valley, including Google, Meta and Shopify, formed an alliance to commit $925 million to carbon removal by 2030. While this is a promising move, access to and investment in carbon removal technologies must become mainstream if they are to move from infancy to scaling at the pace the planet needs.

In 2023, a climate pledge will only be a baseline, the bare minimum. People across the board will demand more from the company they work for, spend and invest in. Those who cannot show tangible progress towards their net zero goals will be left behind.

https://www.wired.com/story/environment-sustainability-carbon/ The Great Carbon Con Is Coming to an End

Zack Zwiezen

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