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Fossil fuel companies’ net-zero pledges are “largely meaningless.”

At least that’s what NetZero Tracker — a group that keeps its eye on hundreds of companies’ emissions reduction promises — has concluded in a new report out this week.

Smokestacks and electrical towers silhouetted by a golden orange sky.

There’s clear scientific evidence that the world needs to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Nearly 150 countries say they’re aiming for net-zero emissions within the next few decades, while 929 publicly traded corporations say the same, according to NetZero Tracker’s report.

The United Nations defines that goal for countries as reducing carbon emissions as much as possible, and then making sure anything still emitted is absorbed by the Earth. But what net-zero means to corporations isn’t so clear.

So to evaluate supposedly eco-conscious companies, NetZero Tracker looked at whether they’d set interim emissions reduction targets and if they were accounting for their products’ lifetime emissions potential — not just the carbon created during manufacturing. Less than 5% of the net-zero-claiming corporations actually were.

Among fossil fuel companies, the stats were even worse. Only four fossil fuel companies have said they’ll phase out oil, gas, or coal exploration, production, and power generation as quickly as needed to achieve climate goals, and none have committed to doing all of those things. And unless they spell out how they’ll account for their products’ lifetime emissions, pretty much every fossil fuel company’s net-zero goals are “largely meaningless,” NetZero tracker concluded.

More clean energy news

🔥 Wildfires’ political power: Democrats are hoping unprecedented wildfire smoke in the nation’s capital — a reminder of climate impacts already being felt around the world — will convince conservatives to support more aggressive action to cut emissions, as some Republicans downplay the connection to a warming planet. (Associated Press, Politico)

🛠️ Help wanted: The federal Inflation Reduction Act may create up to 1 million new wind and solar jobs across the U.S., which experts say will require local job training programs to meet labor demand. (Marketplace)

⚡ How to upgrade the grid: “It’s very different from how we do other types of national infrastructure”: An explainer highlights the challenges to upgrading the country’s electric grid to help meet emissions-reduction goals. (New York Times)

🚙 EVs’ hidden threat: U.S. power grid experts are struggling to find engineers they can collaborate with to address potential electric vehicle software bugs that could cause catastrophic power failures. (E&E News)

🔌 … and a huge benefit: Switching from combustion cars to clean-powered electric vehicles by 2050 could save 89,000 lives and nearly $1 trillion in health care costs in the U.S., the American Lung Association estimates. (Grist)

⚖️ Climate lawsuits’ game changer: U.S. climate lawsuits could be entering a “game-changing” new phase as they multiply and challenge governments’ and companies’ responsibility for climate change, legal experts say. (Guardian)

🔋 The new battery belt: Electric vehicle and battery plants in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas make up a significant chunk of a new “battery belt” of manufacturers extending to the Midwest. (Canary Media) 

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Kathryn brings her extensive editorial background to the Energy News Network team, where she oversees the early-morning production of ENN’s five email digest newsletters as well as distribution of ENN’s original journalism with other media outlets. From documenting chronic illness’ effect on college students to following the inner workings of Congress, Kathryn has built a broad experience in her more than five years working at major publications including The Week Magazine. Kathryn holds a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism and information management and technology from Syracuse University.