Starting 2024 with stubborn optimism on what we can achieve this year
Our CEO shares her insights on how she believes we can make 2024 a year of accelerated climate action.
2023 was a year of transformation for SustainCERT. It was our fifth year of operating as a climate impact verifier - and a year in which we achieved the most significant milestones in our history.
This included becoming ISO accredited, delivering our largest ever capital raise, launching our verification services to the market for carbon markets & Scope 3, becoming a verifier for Verra’s VCS Program, and continuing to grow the reach and impact of the role of the Value Change Initiative in driving in Scope 3 action.
We could not have achieved any of this without the support of our clients, partners, investors and our amazing team of passionate climate experts. I want to thank them all for their commitment to us and to climate action – and promise I will continue fighting harder than ever in 2024 to deliver on our mission, to create digital verification solutions to bring credibility to climate action.
Reflecting on the year over the festive period, which had culminated in a roller-coaster COP 28, the concept of solemn satisfaction over leaders agreement to transition away from fossil fuels resonated with me. Solemn – as the stakes with the climate remain too high, the transition too slow. However, it is much needed progress and we should recognize that.
With regards to progress for voluntary carbon markets though, I looked back with frustration on a year of scrutiny over the markets’ credibility & integrity, which resulted in sharp carbon credit price declines and an uncertain outlook for 2024. The fact that that an agreement was not reached on Article 6 at COP 28 was a disappointing end. Climate change will not wait for red tape delays.
Ever the stubborn optimist though, I firmly believe that we have the knowledge, expertise and burning platform that means we must – and can - make 2024 the accelerator we need towards scalable, credible climate action.
How? Specifically for the markets in which we operate – the voluntary carbon market and Scope 3 – I believe 2024 can be a game changer if the ecosystem works together on what we have available right now.
Effective carbon markets are a vital component of this transition – to channel finance into climate action projects, including those in areas that sit outside of corporation value chains and have limited funding opportunities, such as forestry regeneration and clean cooking. To deliver this we should focus on:
- Making digitization central to building trust and accuracy – and therefore integrity - in the voluntary carbon market. For climate impact project verification for example, digitization of the process would transform a manual process involving spreadsheets and emails to a real-time process, speeding it up from one that takes months to a couple of weeks and significantly improving the accuracy of project impact measurement and frequency at which credits can be issued. At SustainCERT, we are ready for this – we are waiting for the Standards to catch up.
- Making progress on formally recognizing new claims that better reflect the inherent uncertainty of carbon credits. With offsets you look at your residual emissions and buy offsets for each ton of CO2 you produce to support claims to be carbon neutral. Carbon neutral claims are highly controversial and rightly so, to a point where they are now banned in the EU. With the concept of ‘contribution claims’, you don’t claim carbon neutrality – instead you simply report on your precise, measured (financial) contribution to reducing global emissions by investing in verified climate impacts.
With Scope 3 action – which are the largest, most complex and expensive emissions for a company to address – we urgently need more incentivization and collaboration to deliver. No Net Zero or decarbonization target will be achieved without addressing Scope 3 emissions. Supply chains in industries are deeply intertwined.
- We need a new framework that recognizes companies for the work they are doing to decarbonize their value chains – to boost the value of their investments by allowing co-claiming and transfers of Scope 3 impacts and incentivizing others to follow suit. This will also address the problem of so-called ‘free riders’ – businesses that look to benefit from the work of others without taking any action or risk themselves.
- We also need more collaboration and sharing of best practice. The work the Value Change Initiative delivers by bringing together global businesses with civil society – such as SBTi and GHG Protocol – means that global corporates are working together to test and innovate Scope 3 assessment techniques and identifying how to address emissions across their complex global supply chains. We need more of this though – bolder corporate action and quicker action and guidance from civil society, with clearer rules and achievable goals.
And to drive all of this, I strongly believe we need regenerative leadership and mindsets, steeped in humility, resilience and unwavering dedication. We can’t and don’t need to wait for perfect data, legislation and technology. We have enough today and should be honest that we will have better solutions tomorrow, next year and next decade. That is no excuse though not to start and make real progress today.
So my final plea for 2024 is – let’s simplify, be frank and practical. Rocket science will not fix climate change.
Action, collaboration, small steps and a big dose of reality can accelerate our progress. We have what we need today - let’s use it.