New UN plan to stop corporate greenwashing

A powerful United Nations panel has unveiled a global plan to hold companies to their net-zero promises and stamp out corporate greenwashing.

The expert panel, including Australian climate scientist Bill Hare, warned there was no time left for disingenuous corporate behaviour.

After seven months of intense work, the 17-member panel appointed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made 10 recommendations at the COP27 summit in Egypt.

They're designed to bring integrity, transparency and accountability to climate pledges.

Corporations, financial institutions, cities and regions that claim to be in lock step with national climate action plans must start to prove it.

Large corporate emitters should go first and their net-zero plans must be backed up with yearly progress reports. All documents should be released publicly and contain enough detail to be independently verified.

Corporations must commit to immediate reductions in absolute emissions and set short, medium and long-term targets, outlining how they'll be achieved and funded.

Emissions offset schemes have been bumped to the end of the climate action line.

Offsets, rather than actual emissions cuts, should be reserved for the final years of net-zero plans, if they're used at all.

And they must be trusted, high-quality credits, not the junk ones that are part of the global marketplace.

The panel also detailed "red lines" designed to stifle greenwashing, where corporations make false, unsubstantiated, or inflated claims about climate action.

Entities that support or invest in fossil fuel supply, deforestation or other environmentally destructive activities must be disqualified from claiming net-zero status.

The same should apply for those that focus on reducing the intensity of their emissions, or only one component of their emissions, rather than the total.

Dr Hare, who sits on the expert panel and is the chief executive of climate science and policy institute Climate Analytics, says Australia is the Wild West when it comes to corporate accountability on climate action.

"In terms of corporate net-zero claims there is essentially no regulation in Australia," he told AAP.

"It's very much a Wild West where companies can claim what they want without much accountability or reporting requirements."

He backed claims by whistleblower Andrew Macintosh that Australia's carbon credits system, allowing entities to offset rather than reduce emissions, was largely a sham on taxpayers and the environment.

The system is the subject of a government-ordered review.

"The fact that many of the offset units created are not real, additional or permanent should surprise no one who has been following this field for years. It confirms the experience internationally," he said.

"The government needs to put an end to the use of offsets to meet emission facilities emission reduction goals. Ideally, Australia needs to move towards an emissions trading scheme."