Defining Net Zero for organizations: How do climate criteria align across standards and voluntary initiatives?

Aug 1, 2023

With net zero commitments on the rise, there is growing concern about the credibility of these targets and their underlying strategies (Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, 2019; NewClimate Institute et al., 2022). Net zero regulation and policy is growing, particularly related to climate- or sustainability-related risk disclosure, however many government measures to improve the integrity of net zero commitments are still nascent (Race to Zero, 2022). Given this governance gap, voluntary guidance is currently playing a critical role in setting the bar and defining net zero for organisations. This comes in the form of guidance initiatives, orchestration campaigns, standards, investor frameworks and independent trackers aimed at galvanising ambition and helping organisations act towards net zero. However, with so many initiatives offering guidance, it can be difficult for organisations to follow themes and consensus on key criteria.

To provide clarity, Oxford Net Zero mapped key net zero criteria across 33 key standards and voluntary initiatives to trace common and emerging good practice across this landscape. We find that while guidance is scattered across a wide set of initiatives, serving different functions for different groups, there is strong consensus on core net zero criteria and significant cross-referencing between initiatives.

Publication details
The meaning of net zero
Axelsson, Kaya McGivern, Alexis
Oxford Smith School

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