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Read the leaked protest letter from SBTi staff angry over new carbon offset policy

Letter claims the board “undermined” governance process in disclosing revised stance

Letter

Image via Shutterstock/Dasha Yahmina

Staff members of the Science Based Targets initiative are circulating a letter deeply critical of a board statement issued earlier this week disclosing the standards-setting group’s intention to let companies count carbon credits and other "environmental attribute certificates" toward net-zero targets.

SBTi does not currently allow companies to include carbon credits, because it’s difficult to trace and count their impact. 

The controversial shift was announced without consulting the SBTi Technical Council, an independent body tasked with reviewing and approving standards. While it was not secret that SBTi has been reconsidering its stance on carbon credits for reducing Scope 3 emissions, the announcement was a surprise to most SBTi staff, according to those familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In a copy of the letter shared with GreenBiz, the SBTi staff apologizes for confusion over the announcement and calls upon "our partners in the ecosystem to support our efforts in holding those responsible accountable." 

The text of the entire letter appears below. Its authenticity was verified by a member of the organization’s technical council, as well as others who have deep contacts within SBTi.

SBTi Staff Response to the Board of Trustees April 9 Statement

On April 9, 2024, the SBTi Board of Trustees released a statement regarding the use of environmental attribute certificates (EACs), including carbon markets, against Scope 3 emissions reduction targets. SBTi staff are deeply concerned about the content of the statement and the process by which it was developed and released. We therefore feel compelled to issue multiple clarifications.

1. SBTi staff remain committed to our mission

The SBTi was founded to drive corporate decarbonization aligned with the ambition set in the Paris Agreement. In the development of SBTi standards and guidance, we have always strived to be transparent, robust, and scientifically rigorous, with the aim of incentivizing the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions according to the mitigation hierarchy. SBTi staff remain committed to developing quality, science-based standards through rigorous research, clear governance and procedures, and public consultation.

2. The SBTi Board of Trustees undermined our Standard Operating Procedures and governance processes

By communicating this as a decision made by the SBTi rather than a position of the board, the Board of Trustees undermines ongoing work by SBTi staff to make recommendations around the considered use of environmental attribute certificates (EACs). The SBTi’s Standard Operating Procedure, approved by the Board of Trustees in December 2023, does not give the board sole decision-making authority to decide that environmental attribute certificates may be used in this way under SBTi standards.

The SBTi Technical Council, which is “an independent deliberation and technical decision-making body, with delegated authority from the board, to review and approve SBTi standards and other normative documentation,” was neither informed nor consulted on the topic, and did not provide approval on such a significant decision. Furthermore, SBTi staff were not informed of the statement before publication, nor were we consulted on its contents.

3.The SBTi’s standards have not changed and work is still under way to inform potential changes to the Scope 3 framework

The SBTi did undertake a Call for Evidence on the effectiveness of EACs, collecting self-reported evidence that varied greatly in terms of quality and scientific rigor. TheTechnical Department provided a summary of the self-reported survey results to the board; however, we have not completed analysis and synthesis of the evidence submitted as part of the Call for Evidence. The SBTi is currently undertaking a systematic assessment of the evidence, which, along with public consultation, will inform potential revisions to the Corporate Net-Zero Standard.

The SBTi’s standards will not change until we have completed the necessary research, consultation, and governance steps — all specified within SBTi procedures. Carbon credits are not permitted for emissions reductions according to the Corporate Net-Zero Standard nor the Financial Institutions Guidance. The SBTi relies on the input and expertise of our stakeholders to ensure the quality of our standards, and any revisions to the SBTi’s Corporate Net-Zero Standard must be preceded by appropriate consultation before consideration and approval by the Technical Council. This includes consultation with the public, the SBTi’s Scientific Advisory Group and Technical Advisory Group. 

We regret that this statement has caused concern, confusion, and damaged the trust of critical stakeholders. SBTi staff continue to dedicate significant efforts to improve and strengthen the SBTi’s technical governance. We want to reassure our stakeholders and partners that SBTi staff remain committed to our work and upholding the initiative’s mission and governance processes. Our intention is to produce only the most robust standards that ensure companies credibly mitigate their value chain emissions and align business practices with the transformation needed to reach net-zero and limit warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

We call upon our partners in the ecosystem to support our efforts in holding those responsible accountable. 

Sincerely, 

An overwhelming majority of SBTi staff, including representatives of Impact, Accountability and Services, Research and Technical Development, Communications and Operations

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