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BILBAO: Spanish energy company Iberdrola has signed a partnership that “could reach US$15 billion” with Masdar, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) renewables energy subsidiary headed by COP28 president and ADNOC CEO Sultan Al-Jaber.

The two corporations want to develop offshore wind and green hydrogen projects in Germany, the U.S. and the UK - including an existing 49 percent stake by Masdar in the 1.4 Gigwatt UK East Anglia 3 offshore wind project, due for signing in Q1 2024.

Iberdrola says it has 41 Gigawatts of installed renewables plus eight more under construction as part of a €17 billion plan to increase green energy to a total 52 Gigawatts by 2025 - covering onshore wind, photovoltaic, offshore, batteries and hydroelectric.

This level of commitment scores well with InfluenceMap, a non-profit think-tank that tracks and assesses the climate policy engagement of 500 of the world’s largest companies.

In a December 2023 report it selected 293 companies from the Forbes 2000 list for further investigation based on the availability of climate targets data and their net zero communications.

The think-tank found 58 percent of them risk claims of ‘net-zero greenwashing’ because their business objectives are rarely matched by support for government climate policy or the Paris Agreement goals.

These misaligned companies with high levels of the term net-zero on their websites include Chevron, Delta Air Lines, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Glencore International, Nippon Steel Corporation, Repsol, Stellantis, Southern Company and Woodside Energy Group Ltd. In addition, Schlumberger, Lowes Companies and Emerson Electric have the most web pages containing net-zero terms.

Iberdrola, along with Apple and Italian energy company Enel were the exceptions with the Spanish company “strategically engaged in, and supportive of, ambitious climate-related regulation in the EU and globally” - and so less likely to greenwash the term net-zero on its website.

Masdar apparently didn’t qualify for the InfluenceMap research because it doesn’t have enough references to net-zero to trigger the suspicion of greenwashing.

The think-tank’s analysis follows an investigation into net-zero pledges by corporations and financial organisations requested by UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres in 2022.

Published at COP27, the High Level Expert Group report was chaired by Canada’s former Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna who concluded:

"Non‐state actors cannot claim to be net-zero while continuing to build or invest in new fossil fuel supply. Coal, oil and gas account for over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Net zero is entirely incompatible with continued investment in fossil fuels. Similarly, deforestation and other environmentally destructive activities are disqualifying.

"Non-state actors cannot buy cheap credits that often lack integrity instead of immediately cutting their own emissions across their value chain. As guidelines emerge for a high-integrity voluntary credit market, credits can be used above and beyond efforts to achieve 1.5°C aligned interim targets to increase financial flows into underinvested areas, including helping decarbonize developing countries.

"Non-state actors cannot focus on reducing the intensity of their emissions rather than their absolute emissions or tackling only a part of their emissions rather than their full value chain (Scopes 1, 2 and 3).

"Non-state actors cannot lobby to undermine ambitious government climate policies either directly or through trade associations or other bodies. Instead they must align their advocacy, as well as their governance and business strategies with their climate commitments. This includes aligning capital expenditures with net zero targets and meaningfully linking executive compensation to climate action and demonstrated results.

"To effectively tackle greenwashing and ensure a level playing field, non‐state actors need to move from voluntary initiatives to regulated requirements for net-zero. Verification and enforcement in the voluntary space is challenging. Many large non-state actors— especially privately held companies and state-owned enterprises —have not yet made net-zero commitments which raises competitiveness concerns. This picture is changing fast, but it still requires the resolve of governments and regulators to level up the global playing field. This is why we call for regulation starting with large corporate emitters including assurance on their net zero pledges and mandatory annual progress reporting.

"These findings should be a wake-up call for businesses across the globe. It's clear that while companies are quick to showcase their climate commitments, too many of them are not backing that up with support for positive government policy on climate. Not only are many companies choosing to undermine their own climate commitments by lobbying against climate action, their net zero commitments are simply not credible."

Speaking about the report at COP28, Guterres outlined five steps for non-state actors to keep global temperature below 1.5˚C:
• Plans must cover all activities, across every link of value chains. Genuine decarbonization cannot be substituted with dubious offsets or carbon credits in any scope of emissions.
• Detail targets for 2025, 2030 and 2035 in line with science-based pathways to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.
• Disclose all lobbying, policy engagements and communication campaigns to discourage greenwashing and ensure full transparency.
• Highlight efforts to change business models and internal operations to phase out fossil fuels.
• Outline a just, equitable and accelerated renewables transition.
“As the expert group put it in their report, integrity really matters. So there must be no room for greenwashing,” he added.
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