BSI to launch global standard for credible net-zero targets

BSI intends to launch the standard at the UN’s annual 2025 climate conference, COP30, which will be hosted in Brazil.

While BSI is based in the UK, it has more than 77,500 clients globally and has increased its international scope in recent years. The development of the new net-zero standard is being jointly convened by ICONTEC, Colombia’s national standards body.

It is hoped that experts from standards bodies across more than 170 countries will participate in BSI and ICONTEC’s standard development process. Once this stage of work is complete, a public consultation will be held in 2025.

The standard is expected to replace BSI’s existing ISO Net Zero Guidelines. A key evolution will be enhancing best practice recommendations in line with the raft of target-setting, strategy development and disclosure frameworks that have taken shape since these Guidelines were launched in 2022.

“While progress is being made to decarbonize key industries around the world, and many individuals and organisations are stepping up, the net-zero landscape is complex and the lack of clarity risks slowing down efforts to turn ambition into action,” BSI chief executive Susan Taylor Martin said.

She added that international collaboration “represents a landmark opportunity to bring clarity, credibility and trust to the net-zero transition process.”

Businesses selling in the EU could soon be banned from making net-zero claims without third-party verification, as the bloc’s Green Claims Directive takes shape.

A big year for net-zero standards

The development from BSI and ICONTEC comes as the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) is, separately, fine-tuning its Corporate Net-Zero Standard following the launch of the inaugural version in 2021.

This process has been fraught and high-profile so far. The SBTi released a statement in April confirming that it would produce updated guidance on how companies can use ‘environmental attribute certificates’ including carbon credits to account for the delivery of their climate goals, specifically those relating to Scope 3 (indirect) emissions.

This update is expected to relax guidelines on the use of offsets. At present, companies wishing to align with the SBTi’s Net-Zero Standard can only use offsets to address 10% of their absolute emissions across all scopes. Many firms have aired concerns that they will not be able to deliver such significant emissions cuts.

Little information was provided in the initial statement, with the SBTi promising full details in July. Heated debate immediately broke out once the statement was out, including a reported rift within the SBTi’s own staff.

Fears were widespread that the initiative could undermine widely accepted scientific evidence on the need for deep decarbonisation. Critics of more lenient offsetting provisions include WWF and Greenpeace. Proponents include Conservation International, the Environmental Defence Fund and Flora & Fauna – provided that new guiderails are developed.

edie has asked BSI how its new standard would differ from the SBTi’s Corporate Net-Zero Standard. This article will be updated as and when we receive a response.

BSI’s own research into the offsetting issue, conducted in partnership with Oxford Net Zero, found that most businesses are seeking more clarity on when they should use offsets and to what extent – if at all. It uncovered poor understanding of the term “residual emissions” with varying definitions, most of which cap the proportion at 5-10%. This could still be tweaked by amending baseline years for targets, however – another common strategic challenge highlighted by the research.

A recent edie survey of more than 180 sustainable business experts found that six in ten feel that carbon credit markets are “too risky” to invest in at the moment.

Similar research by the We Mean Business Coalition put the proportion closer to eight in ten for firms not already purchasing carbon offsets or planning to do so.

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