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Greenwashing sees firms use advertising and public messaging to seem more climate friendly and environmentally sustainable than they really are.

A failure to identify greenwashing creates a false confidence about how the climate crisis is being addressed, the outgoing chair of the Environment Agency will warn.

Achieving climate resilience and nature recovery will require “robust, consistent and trusted data”, Emma Howard Boyd is expected to say.

Her warning comes after the Climate Change Committee’s latest report, released last week, warned that Government plans for tackling global warming will not deliver on legal targets to cut emissions in the coming decades.

Ms Howard Boyd, speaking at the UK Centre for Greening Finance and Investment Annual Forum at the Institution of Civil Engineers, will call on businesses to be transparent about their net zero plans.

She is expected to say: “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.

“As with the government’s ambition for net zero by 2050, delivering on climate resilience and nature recovery requires robust, consistent and trusted data.

“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 where a company uses advertising and public messaging to appear more climate friendly and environmentally sustainable than it really is.

In one of her final speeches before leaving the Environment Agency in September, Ms Howard Boyd is expected to praise such NGOs “for their tireless work to call this out”.

She will also call for private investment into climate adaptation, saying “just five per cent of climate finance goes towards resilience and virtually none of that comes from the private sector”.

In a plea for more Government involvement to help drive investment, she will ask that it “considers costs and benefits of resilient investment both nationally and by economic sectors; what trajectory that investment should follow; and the appropriate balance between public and private investment”.

She said such an approach “would help us understand how preparedness for climate shocks supports sustainable economic growth establish an overarching ambition for adaptation investment and a plan to achieve it”.


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