Experts threaten to quit SBTi’s advisory groups over potential weakening of offsetting rules

EXCLUSIVE: More than 30 members of the Science-Based Targets Initiative’s (SBTi) technical and scientific advisory groups are urging it to immediately retract a statement indicating that it could allow businesses to use carbon offsetting to a greater extent.

Experts threaten to quit SBTi’s advisory groups over potential weakening of offsetting rules

Earlier this week, the SBTi released a statement indicating that is likely to let companies use carbon credits to account, to a greater extent, for the delivery of Scope 3 (indirect) emissions targets.

The SBTi’s proposed changes are set to come about through work to update the Net-Zero Standard, which first launched in late 2021 and requires companies to pledge to reduce their absolute emissions across all scopes by 90% by 2050 at the latest. Credits are currently permitted to be used to address no more than 10% of Scope 3 emissions.

Surveys revealed that accurately measuring – and properly planning to reduce – Scope 3 emissions was a common barrier to alignment with the SBTi Net-Zero Standard for large businesses in various industries.

While the changes proposed by the SBTi might ease corporate uptake of the standard, they have been met with fierce backlash from some campaign groups and sustainability leaders. Reports have also emerged that some SBTi staff are calling for the ousting of the initiative’s chief executive, Luiz Amaral.

Now, in a letter to the SBTi’s board of trustees seen by edie, members of its scientific advisory group and technical advisory group are expressing anger and disappointment that the statement was issued “without prior discussion”.

The letter expresses “surprise and concern” and calls for the statement to be retracted immediately to allow for a more thorough exploration of the issue.

It states: “During the last call of the technical advisory group, in February 2024, the TAG was presented with a proposed approach to address Scope 3 emissions. Neither carbon credits nor any other type of environmental attribute certificates were presented as a considered option during that call.

“We have not been presented with any specific analysis of the evidence received by SBTi following its call for evidence on the effectiveness of environmental attribute certificates, launched last year.”

The letter argues that, due to a lack of internal consultation, the SBTi has breached its own governance process.

A total of 31 members of the advisory groups have co-signed the letter.

One of the signatories, Paul Schreiber, has indicated that he will step down from the technical advisory group if the statement is not retracted. A further member of the group has reportedly already resigned.

Schreiber said that the statement “could lead to a critical change to the way in which companies set decarbonisation targets” and “should not have been made” without consulting the advisory groups.

He added: “I will not be part of a standard-setting process that is a potential cover for a greenwashing operation.”

Schreiber’s full-time role is that of senior policy officer at campaigning NGO Reclaim Finance.

The SBTi’s statement does stipulate that the organisation will “consult with relevant stakeholders” before producing an initial draft guidance this summer, and will hold further consultations to fine-tune its approach.

edie has reached out to the SBTi for a comment.

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