New HLEG report provides clear guidance on Net Zero for cities, regions and corporations

Nov 9, 2022

The UN-appointed HLEG has released a new roadmap to prevent net zero from being undermined by false claims, ambiguity and “greenwash”. HLEG (High-level Expert Group on the Net-zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities) aims to provide clear guidance on net zero. Guidance is for cities, regions and corporations.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened the Expert Group, which includes Oxford Net Zero’s Dr Jessica Omukuti, earlier this year. This is amidst a great need for all commitments to be transparent, credible, robust, and converted into rapid emissions cuts.

Photo of Jessica

Dr Jessica Omukuti is part of the High-level Expert Group and Oxford Net Zero

‘Creating a universal definition of net zero’

The report outlines 5 principles to help guide net zero target-setting. It gives 10 recommendations with more detail for non-state actors on how the successful attainment of net zero can contribute to fighting climate change. It builds on the existing science and best practice in voluntary efforts to create a universal definition of net zero.

“The recommendations link equity and justice to the determination of credibility of net zero commitments”

Dr Jessica Omukuti

Recommendations include:

  • A net zero pledge must be a commitment by the entire entity, made in public by the leadership. It must be reflective of the city, region or corporation’s fair share of the needed global climate mitigation.
  • A net zero pledge must contain stepping stone targets for every five years. It must set out concrete ways to reach net zero in line with the IPCC or IEA net zero GHG emissions modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot.
  • Non-state actors must prioritise urgent and deep reduction of emissions across their value chain.
Jessica Omukuti said: ‘The HLEG recommendations link equity and justice to the determination of credibility of net zero commitments. For instance, it encourages large corporations to set targets and implement measures that align with their fair share of emission. It also demands that net zero strategies respect human rights, invest in nature restoration and protect local and indigenous communities.”

Read the full report.

‘Bringing coherence and rigour to the landscape’


Meanwhile, to coincide with the report’s launch, the Net Zero Tracker provides a snapshot showing the gaps that entities must fill for net zero to reach its potential to drive fast, bold climate action.

The project, which Oxford Net Zero co-leads, finds that 60% of the 2000 largest publicly listed companies do not have a net zero target. In addition, it finds the percentage is higher among regions and cities.

Oxford Net Zero’s Professor Thomas Hale, Professor of Global Public Policy and Net Zero Tracker co-lead said:

“The HELG report crystalises what is now a clear set of best practices on net zero. At the same time, we need to be clear that most entities setting net zero targets are not yet on track. Data from the Net Zero Tracker shows, for example, that only half of companies setting net zero targets have published robust plans. A similar portion have not said whether or how they will use offsets to reach their targets. Perhaps even more significantly, 3 in 5 of the world’s largest listed companies have yet to set a net zero target.

“The report breaks new ground by squarely calling on regulators to step up and translate the groundswell of voluntary targets into ground rules for the economy overall. The panel called for a Task Force on Net Zero Regulation. This could be a major way to bring coherence and rigour to the fast emerging landscape of net zero regulation.”

Find out more about Oxford Net Zero’s work on net zero commitments.

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