Davos 2023: UN chief urges 'credible' net-zero pledges or risk greenwashing

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  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for credible net zero pledges by business leaders.
  • Guterres also warned against firms making unsubstantiated claims about eco-friendly products or greenwashing.
  • The green energy transition has been a central theme at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
  • For climate change news and analysis, go to News24 Climate Future.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called on business leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos to follow the principles outlined by an expert group to make "credible", accountable net-zero pledges.

The United Nations and standard setter the International Organization for Standardization launched the guidelines in November to become a reference text and help organisations come up with solid plans, avoiding slogans, hype and obfuscation.

While companies are increasingly pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions to as close as possible to zero, the benchmarks and criteria they use "are often dubious or murky", the UN chief told the Davos delegates.

"It leaves the door wide open to greenwashing," he said, referring to unsubstantiated claims by some firms that their products are ecologically friendly.

He urged the participants: "Put forward credible and transparent transition plans on how to achieve net-zero – and submit those plans before the end of this year."

"The transition to net-zero must be grounded in real emissions cuts – and not rely on carbon credits and shadow markets," he said.

READ | UN chief slams oil firms for 'big lie' on global warming

The green energy transition of world powers has been one of the central themes at the forum in Davos, where the European Union said it would mobilise state aid to keep firms from relocating to the United States as part of its Green Deal industrial plan.

Guterres said meaningful engagement on climate, trade and technology between the United States and China - at loggerheads over issues ranging from trade to human rights - was essential to prevent confrontation.

"We risk what I have called a Great Fracture – the decoupling of the world's two largest economies," he said.

"This is the last thing we need."

In comments about global preparedness for another pandemic, Guterres said the world had failed to learn the lessons from Covid-19.

"We are nowhere near ready for pandemics to come," he said.

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