The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), the world’s main verifier of corporate climate targets, has sparked controversy with a recent policy change. The organization will now allow companies to use carbon credits to offset their Scope 3 emissions, which includes their entire value chain, in their pursuit of net-zero targets.

This move has been met with mixed reactions. Businesses have applauded the decision, while environmental groups have expressed strong reservations.

What Changed?

Earlier, SBTi did not permit companies to offset emissions through carbon credits. However, following a six-month consultation period, SBTi has revised its corporate net-zero standard. Companies can now utilize environmental attribute certificates, including carbon credits, for Scope 3 emissions reduction, provided these efforts are “supported by policies, standards and procedures based on scientific evidence.”

Why the Controversy?

Environmentalists are concerned about the effectiveness and validity of carbon credits. They point to accusations of fraud and inflated claims associated with some carbon offset projects.

SBTi has acknowledged these concerns, clarifying that they will not be directly involved in validating carbon credit quality. Instead, they will establish guidelines for other standards bodies responsible for credit verification. However, specific details regarding these guidelines remain unclear.

Industry Cheers, Greens Grumble

The business community has welcomed the change. The “We Mean Business Coalition”, a corporate climate action group, believes this will encourage companies to invest in innovative emission reduction strategies throughout their supply chains. According to them, it could channel much-needed climate finance to developing nations.

The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), a carbon market advocate, sees this as a pragmatic approach for businesses to engage in climate action. They emphasize the evolving nature of the voluntary carbon market and its efforts to improve project quality.

Greenpeace International strongly disapproves and argues that relying on carbon offsets undermines SBTi’s credibility and distracts from the urgent need for real emissions reductions. Similar concerns were echoed by Carbon Market Watch, a non-profit organization, who believe this move allows companies to greenwash their image while continuing to pollute.

Internal Dissent

Adding to the controversy, reports suggest internal dissent within SBTi. A group of SBTi staff reportedly called for the CEO’s resignation over the carbon credit policy change, questioning its scientific basis.

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