• Atmospheric CO2 /Parts per Million /Annual Averages /Data Source: noaa.gov

  • 1980338.91ppm

  • 1981340.11ppm

  • 1982340.86ppm

  • 1983342.53ppm

  • 1984344.07ppm

  • 1985345.54ppm

  • 1986346.97ppm

  • 1987348.68ppm

  • 1988351.16ppm

  • 1989352.78ppm

  • 1990354.05ppm

  • 1991355.39ppm

  • 1992356.1ppm

  • 1993356.83ppm

  • 1994358.33ppm

  • 1995360.18ppm

  • 1996361.93ppm

  • 1997363.04ppm

  • 1998365.7ppm

  • 1999367.8ppm

  • 2000368.97ppm

  • 2001370.57ppm

  • 2002372.59ppm

  • 2003375.14ppm

  • 2004376.96ppm

  • 2005378.97ppm

  • 2006381.13ppm

  • 2007382.9ppm

  • 2008385.01ppm

  • 2009386.5ppm

  • 2010388.76ppm

  • 2011390.63ppm

  • 2012392.65ppm

  • 2013395.39ppm

  • 2014397.34ppm

  • 2015399.65ppm

  • 2016403.09ppm

  • 2017405.22ppm

  • 2018407.62ppm

  • 2019410.07ppm

  • 2020412.44ppm

  • 2021414.72ppm

  • 2022418.56ppm

  • 2023421.08ppm

News & Views

Carbon credits in the spotlight of SBTi row

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) is embroiled in a row over carbon credits, with some staff calling on their CEO to resign

The board of SBTi, an organisation aimed at assessing net zero strategies for some of the world’s major corporations and investors has announced earlier this week that it considers allowing companies to offset some of their Scope 3 emission using carbon credits.

The decision could have major implications for the net zero strategies of corporations such as shipping giant Maersk, Iberdrola or PepsiCo who have also signed up to comply with SBTi standards.

Financial institutions are also starting to adopt SBTi standards with two Danish funds, PensionDanmark and AkademikerPension as well as Finish fund Varma being the first to have their net zero strategies verified at the end of last year. In the UK, the London Pensions Fund Authority (LPFA) has also signed up to the initiative.

Billions on the line

If the new plans are to be adapted, corporates and investors could soon use carbon credits to offset carbon emissions in their value chain. The use of carbon credits in net zero strategies is contentious. The United Nations’ High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities currently advises against the use of carbon credits for non-state actors amid concerns that this could undermine efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Last year, global demand for carbon credits dropped for the first time in seven years, amid concerns about the effectiveness of the strategy. Demand for credits dropped by 6% in the first half of 2023, with major brands scaling back their use of the strategy, according to Bloomberg NEF.

The inclusion of carbon credits by SBTi could have major financial implications argued Sybrig Smit, climate policy analyst at the New Climate Institute: “There are billions on the line. The faulty business model of offset credits is in danger and this wild move is an attempt to keep the business model alive. It's not an attempt to save the climate. On the contrary, it will allow businesses to continue exploiting the planet's resources, and continue unsustainable and harmful supply chains, which mainly take place in the most vulnerable parts of the world” she warned.

Staff rebellion

So far, SBTi has not considered carbon credits to be an effective mechanism for offsetting emissions and the board’s potential U-turn has sparked uproar among staff members.

A letter, seen by Net Zero Investor states it has been signed by an “overwhelming majority of SBTi staff members” criticised the board’s announcement. Staff members pointed out that the group’s technical department is currently in the process of reviewing the effectiveness of what it calls Environmental Attribute Certificates (EACs) but has not yet completed its review.

By announcing the potential inclusion of EACs towards Scope 3 emissions without communicating this with the wider organisation, the Board of Trustees has undermined ongoing work by SBTi staff, the letter’s signatories argue.

Industry responses to the announcement were dominated by scepticism. Dr. Takeshi Kuramochi, a member of the SBTi Scientific Advisory Group argued that SBTi’s board had ‘dumped science into the trash bin’ with its apparently unilateral announcement. ‘While I’m utterly dismayed about this awful breach of trust and governance, I’m also encouraged by the strong resistance and reaction taken by the SBTi staff members ’ he said.

Carsten Warnecke, who has been involved in the development of the SBTi Net Zero Standard warned that the initiative was at risk of being dominated by corporate profit agendas. "Despite the good intentions of many individuals, inside and from outside SBTi, the real decision-making power was obviously transferred to more powerful actors in the background. When staff is not able to turn back the wheel, it will be time to relabel the initiative to what it actually became over a time: a business-driven initiative. We should at least stop arguing that this represent or is based on science or backed by the UN.”

But Nawar Alsaadi, founder and CEO of ESG advisory firm Kanata Advisors argued that the SBTi board had made the right call, stating that those who believed Scope 3 emissions could be eliminated at source were “divorced from reality.”

Instead, the inclusion of carbon credits towards Scope 3 emission offsets could play a role in addressing the $700bn nature funding gap, he stated.

“Those resigning from the SBTi in protest and those attacking the SBTi need to keep in mind that only 18% of companies are currently on track to meet their net zero targets by 2050, and over a third (38%) say they cannot make further investments in decarbonization in the current economic environment. As such, refusal to consider a larger role for high-quality high-integrity credits in enabling corporate decarbonization is a recipe for net-zero failure” he predicted.

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