Group validating global corporate net zero claims to be overhauled, to boost trust

The group that has become the go-to judge of corporate climate plans globally is being broken up and its governance overhauled, it said on Wednesday, as it tries to improve trust in targets and boost capacity for the wave of firms seeking approval.

Businesses, often under pressure from shareholders, have been rushing to commit to reducing their carbon emissions, typically to zero on a net basis by 2050, with interim targets for cutting emissions from now until the end of this decade.

For these plans to have any credibility amid accusations that many firms are greenwashing, scientists, investors and climate groups say companies need external validation that their emission reduction plans are in line with the goal of limiting the global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has emerged as both the standard setter and the arbiter of what counts as a good plan, raising concerns about conflicts of interest and its ability to ensure targets are assessed as robustly as possible.

Under plans unveiled on Wednesday, the part of SBTi validating corporate targets is being shifted into a new UK-incorporated company to boost credibility and “safeguard impartiality.” A separate entity will set standards for target-setting.

The SBTi has also appointed a chair of its board of trustees, naming Francesco Starace, a partner at EQT Infrastructure and ex-CEO of Italian energy giant ENEL, and two independent trustees.

“The SBTi plays an important role in encouraging ambitious cor-porate climate action, which relies on credible target validation and robust standard-setting. I feel honored to join as Chair during this phase of rapid growth,” Starace said.

SBTi’s standard-setting will also be redrawn, it said. The group will publish standard-setting procedures following the appointment of an independent body that reviews and approves SBTi standards before they are adopted.

Established by a partnership of different climate groups, the SBTi saw an 87 percent increase last year in the number of firms setting climate targets and by 2025 it expects more than 10,000 to have set science-based targets.

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