Global initiative launched to rate corporate carbon offset claims

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Global initiative launched to rate corporate carbon offset claims © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Markings made during a carbon content assessment are seen on trees in the Hersey Mountain Wilderness, owned by New England Forestry Foundation, in New Hampton, New Hampshire, U.S., December 4, 2020. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

By Susanna Twidale

LONDON (Reuters) – A standard to assess companies’ claims about progress towards internal climate targets and their use of carbon offset credits was launched on Wednesday by a global initiative seeking to bring transparency and confidence to an unregulated market.

Many companies have set net zero emission targets but acknowledge they will need to buy or generate carbon credits to offset emissions they are unable to eliminate from their operations.

The Claims Code of Practice launched by the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative (VCMI), backed by the British government, seeks to help investors establish whether claims made by companies using carbon offsets are credible.

Under the claims code, companies in all tiers need to make a public commitment to achieving science-based net zero targets no later than 2050 and set interim targets on how this will be achieved.

To be in the Platinum tier, companies must also buy and retire carbon credits to account for 100% of their remaining emissions, with Gold companies offsetting at least 60% and Silver companies at least 20%.

VCMI executive director Mark Kenber said the new standards were needed to help people better understand climate claims made by companies that often use a range of terminology.

“There was so much use and misuse, if not abuse of terms like carbon neutral, climate neutral, net zero, net zero aligned, net zero positive etc,” Kenber said in an interview.

Offset credits are generated from projects such as planting trees or switching to less polluting fuels.

Green groups are sceptical of their use, fearing they paper over a lack of action to achieve actual emissions cuts, and question the environmental integrity of some projects.

Kenber said companies would eventually need to use credits that have achieved standards being developed by The Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM), an independent governance body for the market.

These standards are expected by the end of the year and in the meantime, companies would be expected to use offsets meeting standards set under the under the global airline industry carbon offsetting scheme called CORISA.

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