Report – The Problem Lies in the Net: Making Finance contribute to a Net Zero Economy

30 June 2022


In a report published on June 22, Finance Watch proposes concrete policy measures to make the concept of “net-zero” meaningful, drive progress to net-zero in the real world and harness the stewardship powers of the financial sector to decarbonise the real economy

This new report argues that achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 will require correcting the way that ‘net’ emissions are accounted for, which would replace today’s over-optimistic focus on portfolio decarbonisation with more effective mechanisms, backed by regulation, through which the financial sector can push the non-financial sector towards carbon neutrality.

Net-zero is a radical and powerful idea for decarbonising our economies. However, it shouldn’t be used to justify new fossil fuel developments, when we know these are incompatible with the Paris agreement target of limiting temperature increases to 1.5C.

By clarifying the net-zero concept, creating new financial products, adding supervisory responsibilities and giving teeth to climate-related stewardship, finance can contribute to pushing the economy towards net-zero.

Finance Watch says the following measures must be implemented:

For non-financial companies

  • Implementation of transition plans must be mandatory and enforceable, not just their adoption
  • Transition plans must focus on the reduction of absolute greenhouse gas emissions, not greenhouse gas intensity, including Scope 3 emissions and excluding purchased carbon offsets and avoided emissions; robust rules on using carbon capture and storage and other offsets within own value chains (reliance on available as opposed to hypothetical technology and supervised certification of offsets)
  • Transition plans must include final and intermediate targets with concrete dates

For financiers

  • Climate-oriented stewardship via robust shareholder engagement plans or suitable climate covenants must be systematic, impactful and enforced
  • Transition-linked financing and insurance products must be developed
  • Net-zero oriented financial products subject to robust definitions must be promoted

For supervisors

  • Non-financial companies’ carbon neutrality claims and transition plans, and financial institutions’ net-zero claims and carbon offsets must be supervised

Read also our press release.