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U.N. launches group to hold companies to account for net-zero pledges

WASHINGTON, March 31 (Reuters) - The United Nations on Thursday announced the members of an expert group that will scrutinize corporate pledges to achieve net-zero emissions, an effort to prevent greenwashing as private sector climate plans proliferate.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the group of 16 experts will analyze the net-zero plans of companies, investors, cities and regions in order to develop stringent and transparent standards to ensure they deliver their promises.

“Despite growing pledges of climate action, global emissions are at an all-time high,” Guterres said. “Tougher net-zero standards and strengthened accountability around the implementation of these commitments can deliver real and immediate emissions cuts.”

The group’s formal launch, first announced at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow last November, comes as environmental groups sue companies that lack details about their net-zero plans and as regulators begin to scrutinize the climate commitments made by major companies.

A recent report found that net-zero pledges by 25 top global companies - from Amazon to Unilever - lack clear plans to achieve them and mislead consumers.

Meanwhile, in the United States, a Congressional committee has called on oil company board members to testify about how their firms plan to meet their climate pledges while an environmental group earlier this month sued Shell for failing to properly prepare for net zero emissions.

Experts on the panel include former top California air regulator Mary Nichols, former Brazilian finance minister Joaquim Levy, former Malian Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lead author Bill Hare and board member of insurer Allianz Group Guenther Thallinger.

The group will be supported by a small technical secretariat to be housed at the United Nations and will hold several high-level meetings throughout the course of the year. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici Editing by Mark Potter)

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