(Net) Zero Credibility Award

This exciting new award category showcases the increasing efforts of some of the world’s biggest polluters to jump on the “net zero” bandwagon – while, of course, continuing to cash in on burning fossil fuels.

These nominees can be relied on to shout loudly about small emissions reductions while continuing with incredibly high carbon business plans, claim credit for emissions reductions from technologies that don’t exist yet, and rely on magical carbon-gobbling unicorns to make their emissions disappear. But who’s gone that extra mile to reach the bottom of the pack when it comes to error-filled, deliberately deceptive and downright laughable “net zero” claims? 

Our Nominees

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Heathrow Airport

A hard-to-beat effort from the airport which is already one of the UK’s biggest sources of emissions – and which sponsored Business Green’s Net Zero festival while pushing through legal action to challenge the decision that another runway was incompatible with the UK’s climate commitments. 

Heathrow’s greenwashing plan – oops, sorry, theirsustainable growth’ plan – would see them become a zero carbon airport’, with measures like improving energy efficiency. But 95% of the airport’s emissions come, as you would expect, from flying planes belching out emissions from fossil fuels. 

Cutting emissions from the airport itself while seeking to hugely increase flights is a classic bit of misdirection, and if successful would see the airport gain credit for becoming ‘net zero’ while actually increasing its overall emissions by nearly half as much again. Can even the fossil fuel giants beat this?


HSBC’s have some of the flashiest marketing around and a flashy Net Zero pledge to go with it. But SHOCKINGLY it turns out that they might be all mouth and no trousers, as their “ambitious” pledge doesn’t contain a single binding commitment. Their latest slogan is Together We Thrive, and seems like the “we” is them and the fossil fuel industry.

Whilst there might be no concrete steps in their Net Zero plan, they’ve made some pretty concrete investments that show their real priorities. Including leading on a $1.24bn bond deal to a Norwegian oil exploration company, a project loan of $400m to keep afloat an offshore oil and gas production and storage facility in Brazil, and a 1.25bn load to fossil fuel giant Exxon. If climate devastation wasn’t enough for you, their Greatest Hits also include profiting from Israeli apartheid and funding detention centres. They’ve financed £66 billion in fossil fuels since the Paris Deal was agreed making them Europe’s second biggest financier of fossil fuels and generally full of s***.


BP is both a major polluter and, as a result of its Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a major corporate criminal too. But now it’s busy telling anyone and everyone that it’s changing its oily ways and is fully committed to being ‘Net Zero by 2050’. But once you scratch the surface, you’ll find plans for decades more risky fossil fuel extraction…

Unlike some of its competitors, BP recently announced plans to cut its oil and gas production by 40% by 2030. Sounds impressive right? But what the company doesn’t like to tell you is that it’s left around a third of its actual production out of that figure – all the fossil fuels it gets through its share in the Russian state oil firm Rosneft. So that figure is really around 27% – far short of the cuts we need to be seeing from major Western oil companies to have a hope of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees. And production is only one part of BP’s operations – it hasn’t set a similar target to reduce the amount of oil and gas it actually sells, which is a much bigger volume. 

Perhaps most damningly, BP’s CEO has been up-front about the fact that they still plan to be producing fossil fuels in 2050. According to him, there will be all kinds of (unproven, expensive, dangerous) new technologies to suck BP’s emissions out of the atmosphere by then. What part of ‘leave the fossil fuels in the ground’ do these people not understand? 

And remember, this is just ‘an ambition’. If BP’s profits take too much of a hit, there’s nothing stopping it going ‘back to petroleum’. Again. 


Your favourite pipeline-purchasing, fracking-funding bank are back, and they’re more destructive than ever. Barclays are one of the biggest banks to bring us a Net Zero pledge, so seems only right that they’re also bringing some of the biggest hypocrisy. In the first nine months of 2020 – the year of their Net Zero announcement – they actually increased fossil fuel financing to $24.6 billion, an increase of $200m. Across their portfolio of destruction, special mention goes to their  investments in the Canadian tar sands – an operation which both manages to destroy indigenous territories and cause three to five times more pollution than conventional oil.


Drax Power Station is even more ambitious than other polluters with its “Net Zero” pledges. 

The UK’s single largest carbon emitter and the world’s biggest tree burner isn’t just claiming it can become a “net zero” power station. Drax’s CEO, Will Gardiner, used his speech at the COP25 Climate Conference in 2019 to announce that Drax can become the world’s first ever “carbon negative” power station by 2030. 

How can a huge power station that emitted almost 13 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019 from burning wood from clear-felled US and European forests achieve this feat? Well, according to Drax, it can use Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) technology to capture more CO2 than it emits from burning trees. 

What Drax isn’t mentioning is that its ‘world-leading ambition to be ‘carbon negative’ is based on unproven BECCS technology. As yet, Drax’s pilot project to capture 1 tonne of CO2 per day and to use the stored CO2 to make beer fizzy has been unsuccessful and Drax has released all of its emissions into the atmosphere. Of course, this doesn’t stop it from asking for huge new funding from the Government for its BECCS project as part of the Zero Carbon Humber Partnership

Drax’s ‘negative emissions’ promises also fail to admit that even if BECCS technology were made to work in the future, it would lead to the destruction of even more forests and the conversion of huge areas of land to monoculture tree plantations to supply wood to burn in power stations – which could have severe implications for biodiversity and food security.

Not content with its tree and coal burning, Drax is also planning to build Europe’s largest fossil gas power station and the UK Government has ignored the advice of its own Planning Inspectors to approve Drax’s application for the climate-wrecking gas power station.

As a ‘world-leading’ polluter which is planning to burn even more trees and fossil fuels, Drax is a perfect candidate for your vote for this Net Zero Credibility Award. 


Norwegian oil giant Equinor was a bit late to the party but, in November, the firm’s new CEO announced that the company is aiming to be ‘Net Zero’ by 2050. And with its investments in offshore wind increasing, Equinor might try to persuade you that it is now a fully reformed climate leader.

However, this state-owned oil giant is still firmly into fossil fuels and actually plans to increase its output of oil and gas by 3% per year until 2026! Analysts at the organisation Carbon Tracker have crunched the numbers and found that around 80-90% of Equinor’s planned oil and gas production is beyond what we need to limit global heating to 1.6C.

Like its competitors, Equinor has also been talking up the potential of so-called ‘nature based solutions’; as-yet-unproven ways of soaking up the massive emissions it plans to keep spewing out. And just like BP, that ‘Net Zero’ ambition isn’t binding. It also comes with a massive disclaimer allowing Equinor to change course if its profits take a hit. 

Before Equinor can even talk about Net Zero with any credibility it needs to quit drilling in the Arctic, end new oil and gas exploration and make cuts to its production of fossil fuels. Otherwise its ‘Net Zero’ aim is as cynical as switching its name from Statoil, hoping we’d just forget about all the oil it’s drilling for.

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