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Putting the ‘net’ in net zero

12 April, 2024

In October 2021, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) published its Net-Zero Standard, aiming to create clarity around a concept that was being adopted quickly with little rigour or consistency.

The SBTi set a high standard to achieve net zero, requiring high levels of decarbonisation across all emissions without being able to rely on carbon credits to offset. The expression it used at the time, “less net, more zero”, reflects this well. But this and the associated move away from carbon neutrality claims created less urgency and importance around this method of voluntary carbon removal and other long-term investments in emissions mitigation outside of companies’ value chains, or beyond value chain mitigation (BVCM).

The SBTi recognised BVCM is an important part of the net zero solution, but these changes were left in a bit of a limbo, encouraged as part of helping the world stay within 1.5 degrees of warming, but not required for net zero until a company has reduced its emissions by 90%. Now, although it hasn’t (yet) been made a requirement, two recent reports from the SBTi have set out what best practice for BVCM should look like, and how to accelerate its adoption.

SBTi explores how to accelerate the adoption of BVCM in the first report, describing research on barriers to and the business case for BVCM. Then the second report is focused on how to design and implement BVCM, defining what a BVCM pledge should cover, and how to set aside a financial budget for BVCM activities. The idea of a science-based carbon price is central to this, and this funding should be put towards a combination of both quantifiable, short-term investments, and long-term, transformational climate action.

This guidance – along with others from the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative and the Gold Standard – gives ambitious companies the  best practice guidance they need, the credibility to be confident to start making this essential investment in everyone’s future, and to communicate it.

By Patrick Bapty

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