Just weeks after the UN Secretary General released a report detailing sluggish progress on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), efforts are already underway to bolster support for their widespread adoption. Gold Standard — a standard and certification body established by World Wildlife Fund that works to catalyze action for climate security and sustainable development — has launched the Gold Standard for the Global Goals, a new standard to quantify, certify and maximize the contributions of climate and development interventions toward the Paris Climate Agreement and the SDGs.
Backed by the WWF and international NGOs EcoAct and ClimateCare, the standard will make it easier for businesses, governments and investors to measure, track and report the full range of benefits they have contributed to, while safeguarding organizations against accusations of green-washing.
All new projects certified under the Gold Standard for the Global Goals will be held to a strict set of criteria, which feature rigorous safeguards and independent third-party verification to ensure they deliver real emission reductions. Projects will also be required to contribute to at least three SDGs, including SDG 13 — Climate Action. Ongoing engagement with local stakeholders also ensures projects benefit local environments and communities as much as possible and Gold Standard has also developed protections to ensure gender equality is at the core of every project.
“If we are to keep global warming well below 2oC and meet the Sustainable Development Goals, climate action must be holistic and high-impact, helping the world develop on a sustainable pathway. SDGs are becoming a huge priority for a range public and private sector organizations but accurately measuring and reporting progress has presented a major challenge,” said Marion Verles, CEO of Gold Standard.
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“Our new standard quantifies and certifies that many additional benefits Gold Standard projects deliver beyond carbon mitigation — for example by providing access to clean energy and water, creating jobs, improving health or protecting natural habitats — providing those who run or fund projects with new opportunities to measure and report their impact.”
In addition to incentivizing more ambitious climate action from both public and private sector actors, the Gold Standard for the Global Goals is also expected to open up new funding opportunities for large-scale programs with the intention of scaling up clean technology and sustainable development in cities around the world.
Cities are one of the biggest emitters of C02, responsible for 75 percent of global emissions, yet they receive less than 15 percent of global climate finance. According to the World Bank, only four percent of the largest 500 cities in the developing world are credit worthy in international markets.
The Urban Development module under the new Standard aims to help developers design and implement best practice and projects and quantify and communicate climate and development impacts such as cleaner air and improved health, to attract investment and gain public support.
“As the investment community is increasingly concerned about green-washing or ‘SDG washing’ through false or exaggerated claims, knowing that both the greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable development outcomes of urban climate change programs have been quantified and scrutinized by third-party auditors makes a jurisdiction more attractive to investors — ultimately helping cities transform from ‘business as usual’ to sustainable and more prosperous urban environments,” said Denise Welch, Director of Research and Technical Initiatives at The R20.
Gold Standard has also announced a new partnership with the UNFCCC Secretariat — which is responsible for delivering the Paris Agreement — to develop a range of methodologies, tools and guidelines to assist companies and governments in setting voluntary sustainability targets and assessing the SDG impacts of their initiatives.
“We’re seeing an emerging risk of corporates simply rebranding their CSR efforts to match the SDGs. What WWF would like to see is clear, consistent and comparable performance from one business to another. Gold Standard for the Global Goals provides real metrics and credible methodologies to accurately measure and report on SDG contributions,” said Thomas Vellacott, CEO of WWF Switzerland.