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Greenwashing creates ‘false confidence’ in climate fight, environment chief warns

Rampant greenwashing is creating a “false confidence” in the fight against climate change and threatening to to derail efforts to hit net zero targets, the chief of the UK’s environment agency will warn today.

Emma Howard Boyd, addressing the UK Centre for Greening Finance and Investment Annual Forum, will warn the conference that “robust, consistent and trusted data” is required if the transition to net zero energy is to be successful.

“The more businesses are transparent about their plans to transition to net zero and prepare for climate shocks, the easier it is to benchmark best practice, set standards and celebrate the companies that really are delivering on their commitments,” she is expected to say today.

“If we fail to identify and address greenwashing, we allow ourselves false confidence that we are already addressing the causes and treating the symptoms of the climate crisis.”

Greenwashing is defined by ClientEarth as companies using advertising and public messaging to appear more climate friendly than they really are. In one of her final speeches before leaving the Environment Agency in September, Howard Boyd is expected to praise such NGOs “for their tireless work to call this out”.

Her warnings come after the UK’s top financial watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, announced last week that it backed calls to bring ESG ratings and data within its remit in a bid to prevent inflated ESG ratings.

“We see a clear rationale for regulatory oversight of certain ESG data and rating providers – and for a globally consistent regulatory approach informed by the recommendations on ESG data and ratings developed by the International Organization of Securities Commission in 2021,” the FCA said last week.

“We therefore support the Government’s consideration of bringing ESG data and rating providers within our regulatory perimeter.”

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