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Moving from responsibility to accountability

Emissions reductions and investing for a net zero world

Propelled by the race towards a low-carbon economy, private and public sector investors from superfunds to university endowments are setting Net Zero and Paris Aligned emission reduction targets. The carbon metrics used to demonstrate progress towards these targets are socio-material assemblages and thus carry the weight of both the greenhouse gas emissions we seek to manage, control and reduce, as well as the social orders from which they are designed, and through which they are then diffused and implemented. As socio-material constructs, carbon metrics need to be legitimised to be successful. The sociology of finance literature shows that diffusion of financial models occurs not necessarily because they are ‘good’, but because they are useful.

The methods underlying carbon metrics demonstrate this; they quantify and attribute emissions to investors and the companies they invest in ways that can show alignment with Net Zero or Paris Agreement targets, while allowing emissions to rise.

Through multi-disciplinary mixed-methods research, this project aims to examine how carbon metrics are assembled, so that actual emissions and progress towards actual emissions reductions are measured.

This project is supported by SEI’s 2022 Collaborative Project Fellowship scheme.

Contributors: Dr Tanya Fiedler, Dr Alastair Fraser