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Breakingviews – China Inc has little to celebrate on Earth Day – Reuters

A staff member is seen at Alibaba Group’s new data centre in Zhangbei, Hebei province, China September 11, 2016. Picture taken September 11, 2016. China Daily/via REUTERS

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HONG KONG, April 22 (Reuters Breakingviews) – President Xi Jinping’s green revolution has had an underwhelming start. It’s nearly two years since China’s leader pledged the country’s carbon dioxide emissions would peak before 2030 and reach neutrality, or net-zero, by 2060. The corporate sector has little progress to show as yet.

That’s not stopping them from trying, especially with Earth Day on Friday. The annual event, first marked in 1970 to push the United States to up its environmental game, has in recent years become a peg for governments and businesses around the world to showcase their green credentials.

Ant took the lead this week, bragging that its operations have already achieved net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions. Only half of that comes from using renewables and improving energy efficiency; the rest required buying carbon offsets. Moreover, the fintech company is not a huge emitter. Nor is its e-commerce affiliate, Alibaba (9988.HK), or rival web group Tencent (0700.HK), both of which last year announced net-zero roadmaps by 2030.

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Some major polluters have stepped up, like China Baowu Steel. The world’s biggest producer of the metal early last year detailed plans to hit peak carbon emissions in 2023 and net zero by 2050, while its chairman estimated the company’s related investments will hit 200 billion yuan ($31 billion) by 2035. Baowu also in November founded an alliance of more than 60 peers aimed at cutting emissions read more .

For the rest of China Inc, though, net-zero pledges have been mostly greenwashing exercises. Major emitters like State Grid and CNOOC (0883.HK) have yet to disclose any concrete details. Some don’t even bother: Alibaba rival Pinduoduo (PDD.O), for example, scored zero points for climate commitments or information disclosure, and ranked last in a recent Greenpeace assessment of seven local e-commerce companies. The lack of such data is a widespread problem for investors. While Chinese green-bond issuance more than doubled to $67 billion in 2021, per Dealogic, just 27% of A-share listed companies issued environmental, social and governance reports in 2020, according to JPMorgan.

Despite Beijing’s push to wean the country off fossil fuels, state-owned enterprises have not fared better. Local research group Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs found read more that out of 58 listed SOEs responsible for more than 1 billion tonnes of annual emissions between them, just six have set an actual deadline for peak emissions, and three have a carbon neutrality target.

Far from being a celebratory occasion for Chinese companies, Earth Day serves as a wake-up call.

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

CONTEXT NEWS

– April 22 is Earth Day, an annual event, first marked in the United States in 1970, for people to show their support for protecting the environment.

– Chinese financial technology company Ant Group on April 19 said it has achieved carbon neutrality in so-called Scope 1 and 2 emissions through a combination of energy saving practices, renewable energy sources and carbon offsets.

– According to third-party figures, the company reduced a total of 37,909.87 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from its Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, the “equivalent to taking 15,000 cars off the road each year”.

– Separately, e-commerce company Alibaba on April 22 announced its cloud-computing unit will aim to have its global data centres running entirely on clean energy by 2030.

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Editing by Antony Currie and Thomas Shum

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