The Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance (NZAOA) has issued a “call for comment” in a bid to spur the development of methodologies that would better support its members in pursuing their carbon neutrality goal.

According to the group, no existing initiative currently fulfils enough of its methodological requirements for its members to converge on it.

Investors in the Alliance have committed to reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in their investment portfolios to net-zero by 2050, to be aligned with the Paris Agreement objective of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

They seek to do this in particular by aiming to drive decarbonisation across sectors by engaging with companies and policymakers. Their commitment includes reporting regularly on their progress and establishing intermediate targets every five years.

“In order for us to monitor progress and report against this 1.5°C target and feed this ambition into the COP26 process in close coordination with the UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance as well as the TCFD secretariat, we express a need to develop robust measurement methodologies,” the group said in the call for comment document.

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is considering how asset owners and managers could disclose information on the position of their investment portfolios relative to the transition to a net-zero carbon economy, and has created an ‘Implied Temperature Rise Associated with Investments’ working group that coordinates closely with the NZAOA.

“While various solutions providing an ‘implied temperature rise’ metric already exist, more convergence is urgently needed”

Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance

“While various solutions providing an ‘implied temperature rise’ metric already exist, more convergence is urgently needed,” said the NZAOA. “The NZAOA is not designed to develop such solutions.

“Instead, this ‘Call for Comment’ defines the core methodology principles required and is launched in order to generate adequate methodology developments that will better suit our needs.”

‘Demanding’ requirements

NZAOA described the requirements as “demanding,” saying its members recognised this and did not expect any provider to fill all the gaps, but considered them “a roadmap to highlight a trajectory over time”.

The requirements include that the methodology should:

  • favour reported data over inferred data;
  • be based on documented and transparent principles so that the results produced by calculations can be replicated by other investors using the same databases;
  • be based on GHG emissions footprinting including Scopes 1 and 2, and Scope 3 for sectors “where these are material”; and
  • have basic principles that are “simple to explain to non-specialist audiences while the full underlying methodology may remain complex”.

Other requirements are that methodology provides investors with a metric that:

  • is expressed in terms of a forward-looking carbon key performance indicators (KPI) as well as a “temperature KPI”; and
  • must be able to be expressed at individual issuer and portfolio levels (including multi-asset class portfolios).

‘Preference’ for carbon intensity based on enterprise value

In the call to comment the NZAOA also revealed its backing of at least one element of the approach to calculating carbon intensity that has been recommended by the EU sustainable finance technical expert group (TEG) for EU climate benchmark categories – and strongly criticised by Scientific Beta.

The asset owner group said it had “a preference for footprint intensity normalisation rules based on enterprise value,” bringing up a point over which there was recently a clash between Scientific Beta and a member of the technical expert group (TEG).

According to a spokesperson for the NZAOA’s monitoring reporting and verification working group, “the reason for our focus on enterprise value (EV) is to achieve some consistency with the EU climate transition and Paris-aligned benchmarks”.

“EV was chosen over revenues because it creates less volatility in all the tests performed and shows less differences across sectors,” the spokesperson added. “In that way, it is better applicable to diversified strategies.”

The NZAOA’s ’Call for Comment’ document can be viewed here.