COP26 – Accountability in Tracking Net Zero
By Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News
It is no news that COP26 is extremely important. It is imperative that we get meaningful action from it. Like the rest of you, I have been seeing a lot of negativity from mainstream news media with regard to the potential outcomes from COP. Indeed activists should push hard to have their voices heard, especially considering the makeup of the conference attendees. But it’s not over yet, so inform yourselves but take the negativity with a grain of salt. Maybe a spoonful. The insider reports I have been reading and hearing (that are not mainstream news), indicate that there is real, meaningful momentum occurring.
After COP21 the so-called “Paris Effect” accelerated the rate of decarbonization in a very impactful way – more than anyone who was there at the time would have imagined. Private industry stepped up and began developing carbon-free ways of doing business before governments mandated it. China hit its 2015 goal early, as they will certainly do with their COP26 goal of net-zero by 2060. India, the other big emitter, says they will hit net-zero by 2070, but with the plan it unveiled, will get to zero far sooner. These major governments are wary of making too big of an announcement for fear of destabilizing existing industries and economies.
But back to COP21. Since the Paris Accord was ratified in 2015, transportation, power gen, manufacturing, and even global finance have all seen huge shifts in the way they do business and who they do business with. There is no doubt in my mind that the huge stone we environmentalists have been pushing uphill has now reached the apex. It is starting to roll more easily, and soon it will pick up speed as it begins to move on its own. Just like the huge ship crossing the ocean, all the world’s industries and governments require time to change course. At first, the ship appears to not be turning at all. But then, slowly, the change in direction becomes apparent. Once the new course is locked in and the vessel is going where we want it to, it is equally difficult to change back. I believe we are at the point of the ship has changed course, but not quite enough to be apparent to those without a compass.
We need this compass to see exactly where the ship is going instead of guessing. It’s not enough to blindly change course. It’s not enough to simply want to change direction without being able to quantify it and to know if we are maintaining the course. This is why I keep coming back to COP26 as being the COP of accountability. When you are standing on the bridge of a ship looking out to sea, all directions look pretty much the same. Only a few degrees off of a true bearing, and the ship will eventually reach a very different location than intended.
It is the same in terms of net-zero. We have agreed on the general direction. The destination is known. The intention is clear, but to make sure we know that the various stakeholders are going to do what is required, we need clear and strong accountability. Accountability that is transparent and verified. This is why I found the Net Zero Tracker so interesting. They independently verify and quantify each and every net-zero plan of each and every government, city, and the 2000 largest publicly traded companies.
“The Net Zero Tracker aims to increase transparency and accountability of net-zero targets pledged by nations, states and regions, cities and companies. We collect data on targets set and on many factors that indicate the integrity of those targets — essentially, how serious the entity setting the target is about meaningfully cutting its net emissions to zero.”
The net-zero pledge of a drunken CEO at an industry junket is far different than one that is made as a part of corporate governance and that is enshrined in the company charter. The net-zero pledge of a country like Russia might be more or less laudable than that of say, Canada, a country that has it enshrined in law. But it goes even further. Canada may have a net-zero law, but the interpretations of net-zero or how it is calculated may differ from what is accepted. For example, Canada’s oilsands are extremely dirty and emit a huge amount of carbon. Sure, industry and government want to significantly reduce this number but don’t count the carbon emitted when the oil is consumed at its final destination. The same with coal. The calculations are always based on the carbon emitted during the extraction, not the overall impact.
The Net Zero Tracker accounts for all these factors, allowing academics and researchers to fully understand where these governments and organizations stand in terms of actually reaching the ultimate goal of net-zero by 2050.
Independent and unbiased, Net Zero Tracker doesn’t assign a score – they compile data and make it available to the public. It is presented in a clear concise format so individuals and organizations can visualize and make their own determinations on who is doing what and how effective it is. Raw data may be used in a variety of ways and will hopefully provide a means of accountability to these pledges and separate greenwashing from real action.
Please take a look, cite and reference the Net Zero Tracker and help spread the word about it. Together we can hold these net-zero touting businessmen and politicians’ feet to the fire.