The consequences of the climate emergency, such as rising sea levels, disappearing glaciers, food scarcity, and extreme weather events, are becoming increasingly evident. As The Guardian reports, scientists warn that the situation is more severe than anticipated, threatening both natural ecosystems and humanity's fate. In response, a growing coalition of countries, cities, businesses, and other institutions are pledging to achieve carbon net-zero.
Carbon net-zero implies accurately calculating one's carbon footprint and purchasing carbon-lowering offsets to balance the carbon emissions. However, questions arise as to whether such commitments are genuine or simply another form of greenwashing, a term coined in the 1980s to describe organizations taking credit for green initiatives without genuine action plans.
Take, for example, the City of Toronto, which has pledged to become carbon net-zero by 2040. Aside from waste, Scope 3 emissions, which are associated with the purchase of goods and services (the supply chain) and can represent up to 80% of one's carbon footprint, are absent from the city's carbon inventory report. Furthermore, the net-zero strategy fails to address scope 3 emissions or carbon offset purchases required to achieve net-zero.
Announcing net-zero commitments today while leaving future generations to deal with implementation can be seen as a form of greenwashing. However, the coalition for net-zero can adopt the following two simple strategies to make substantial progress towards net-zero:
Focus on scope 3 emissions: By giving procurement preference to validated low-carbon suppliers, the market will respond by offering more low-carbon products and services, driving innovation, and encouraging sustainable practices throughout the supply chain.
Commit to purchasing high-quality carbon credits/offsets: By investing in high-quality carbon offsets today, businesses can balance out their carbon emissions while stimulating the growth of carbon-lowering projects. This will encourage suppliers of carbon offsets to expand their efforts in response to increased demand.
It is crucial for decision-makers to commit to tackling climate change today, rather than postponing it to the distant future. Achieving our climate objectives is possible, but it requires bold and immediate action. By adopting these strategies and fostering a sense of urgency, we can work together to create a more sustainable future and ensure that carbon net-zero commitments do not become just another form of greenwashing.