The ‘climate tech’ gold rush is here – but who’s going to verify its credibility and claims?

We are shooting for the moon when it comes to setting ambitious climate targets and investing in new solutions, yet relying on archaic tools to make sure we are reaching them – that needs to change

Marion Verles, CEO, SustainCERT

This article was first published in BusinessGreen

Last week we witnessed WeWork founder Adam Neumann land $70m for a start-up to sell tokenised carbon credits on the blockchain, meanwhile discussions at Davos on how to restore trust to ‘rebuild global collaboration’ lacked a focus on verification of claims. 

On the one hand, news of Neumann’s investment into crypto and tokenization is welcome, because we need to finance underlying projects, however solutions such as these do nothing to solve the carbon offset quality problem. 

While we need new players driving innovation and digital solutions at scale, the truth is: if a carbon credit is bad quality, then it doesn’t add anything to the climate whatsoever. 

Neumann’s project is just one of many questionable carbon credit ventures: we are witnessing hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into projects while the independent verification industry, key to ensuring projects are real and that impact invested in will lead to tangible impact on the ground, is not high enough on the agenda.  

We need next generation verification players

Verification is the process of ensuring a carbon project is implemented according to the standards set by global certification bodies, and when tech providers don’t engage with these standards, things get messy very quickly. 

For this new generation of climate players to thrive and make a tangible contribution to the climate challenge, we need to see the emergence of the next generation verification players that can digitally interface with climate tech and provide credibility that the impact being claimed is real. 

The challenge is that the verification industry is perhaps the only industry that’s been left untouched by the digital revolution to date. Most organizations still use manual or analogue processes to verify if projects meet the standards of certification bodies, and it goes without saying that this is expensive, complex, and is holding back action towards achieving sustainability goals under the Paris Agreement.

To solve this, at SustainCERT we are developing the world’s first software platform for digital verification across carbon markets and Scope 3 reporting. Digital-monitoring reporting verification (D-MRV) will make certification standards more accessible and affordable at a scale never seen, however, it also demands rewriting the rules of the verification industry. 

the problem in today’s market is that companies can make claims that nobody can verify

Emmanuel Faber, Chair, International Sustainability Standards Board

At Innovate 4 Climate last week, alongside carbon standards such as The Gold Standard and Verra we provided an open forum to share collaborative insights and drive consensus on best-practice for MRV in a digital context because while this industry scales up, it is essential there is consensus on how to drive more credibility, transparency and efficiency in carbon markets worldwide. We will be sharing outcomes in a whitepaper published openly in the coming weeks and look forward to feedback and engagement from the wider industry. 

Speaking at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last week Emmanuel Faber, chair of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), underscored the role of verification in combating greenwashing stating that “the problem in today’s market is that companies can make claims that nobody can verify”.

What we are all dealing with is an evolving and ambiguous landscape. However, the underlying thing that everyone is trying to achieve is impact – and to ensure that the impact they invest in is actually realised. 

With investments rolling into climate tech to scale solutions, it’s urgent that scaling independent verification is high on the agenda too. Because essentially: if it’s not verified, it’s not true.

If we don’t rapidly invest in innovation to meet this challenge, we may find ourselves standing on a burning planet in 20 years time, thinking: “We had all these plans, technologies, blockchains, but nothing was realised – not a single project delivered on its promise.

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