COP28: green hydrogen must not be undermined by undefined “low-carbon” hydrogen and lax methods for reporting blue hydrogen emissions

A Declaration and a separate Joint-Agreement on hydrogen were launched at COP28 this week. There are key differences in terms of content and approach. 

The COP28 Presidency Declaration focused on mutual recognition of certification schemes for renewable (green) hydrogen and low carbon (blue) hydrogen to address market fragmentation and stimulate global hydrogen trade. The Declaration references the ISO’s new methodology for assessing greenhouse gas emissions for hydrogen production and transport which is set to become a fully-fledged standard over the next year.

While efforts to find a common method to calculate emissions from the production, conditioning and transport of hydrogen are welcome, concerns have been expressed that the ISO methodology does not define what truly low-carbon hydrogen is through a maximum emissions threshold, and it risks underreporting emissions associated with blue hydrogen for upstream methane and the permanence of carbon storage.

COP28 has seen progress and pledges on cutting methane emissions which are 80 times more potent than CO2 on a 20-year basis. The ISO methodology now also needs to tighten its reporting requirements for upstream methane emissions which come from the extraction and production of fossil gas used to produce blue hydrogen. National averages are not sufficient, we need site-specific data which is publicly reported and verified by third parties. The ISO methodology also needs to include stricter reporting requirements on CO2 storage and how to measure CO2 leakage when it is stored.


Green Hydrogen Organisation Chair and Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: “Efforts to find a common method to calculate emissions from the production, conditioning and transport of hydrogen are welcome. However, unlike the Green Hydrogen Standard, the ISO process underway will not include an emissions threshold for truly clean hydrogen. It also risks underreporting emissions associated with blue hydrogen for upstream methane and the permanence of carbon storage. As the ISO standard is developed, we need an inclusive and robust process to ensure these issues are addressed which take on board all views.”

The Declaration also fails to address the role of standards and certification when it comes to other environmental, social or governance issues which are crucial to building the truly low-carbon hydrogen sector.

The “High-Level Roundtable” launching the Declaration did not include the voices of NGOs and communities which care deeply about the opportunities and risks of building a sustainable hydrogen sector. The Green Hydrogen Organisation and a chorus of NGOs including Bellona, the Environmental Defense Fund, International Council on Clean Transportation, Global Witness and Natural Resources Defense Council all expressed concern. It is essential that all views are taken on board as the sector finds its feet, including as the ISO standard is further developed. Given the public interest, the ISO should also make its new methodology freely available rather than behind a USD 200 paywall.

With draft regulations for clean hydrogen production tax credits under the US Inflation Reduction Act expected to be published next week and Friday’s agreement that the EU will be developing its own methodology to calculate emissions from blue hydrogen over the next year, the issue of upstream methane emissions and CO2 storage will come under heavy scrutiny. If there are strict requirements for green hydrogen production, it is only fair that requirements for blue hydrogen are equally strict.

In contrast, the Joint-Agreement on the Responsible Deployment of Renewables-Based Hydrogen was endorsed by a wide range of regional hydrogen alliances, companies, members of academia and national laboratories, government institutions, public agencies, and NGOs. The Joint-Agreement states that “the only scalable, truly near-zero emissions hydrogen is produced from water using renewable energy”. It is also clear that green hydrogen must have near-zero emissions, should be deployed only in hard-to-abate or hard-to-electrify sectors and must be deployed responsibly to achieve maximum societal benefits and minimise environmental impacts such as those related to land or water use.

Green Hydrogen Organisation CEO Jonas Moberg said: “Ultimately renewable green hydrogen is the only scalable and sustainable way to decarbonise those sectors that can’t be directly electrified. As we build the renewable green hydrogen sector at pace to address the climate emergency, we need to bring society with us. The joint declaration clearly sets out the principles needed to ensure the sector grows responsibly and equitably.”

The Green Hydrogen Organisation is delighted to be a flagship partner for the Joint-Agreement and looks forward to working with other signatories on implementation. Many issues highlighted in the Joint-Agreement are addressed in the updated Green Hydrogen Standard 2.0 which was also launched at COP28.

The Green Hydrogen Standard defines what renewable electricity can be used to produce green hydrogen; includes an emissions threshold aligned with net zero; and sustainability criteria to ensure green hydrogen projects have a positive impact on the communities where they are located.

Joint-Agreement on the Responsible Deployment of Renewables-Based Hydrogen
Left to right: Bradford Willis (Green Hydrogen Lead, The Climate Champions Team), Alex Hewitt (Co-CEO, CWP Global, Chair, The Green Hydrogen Catapult), Andera Rodriguez Osuna (Advisor, Euroclima+ Program (GIZ)), Dean Bialek (Chief Officer, External Affairs & Govt Relations, CWP Global), Jonas Moberg (CEO, The Green Hydrogen Organisation)

As regional and national regulatory standards are evolving, the global Green Hydrogen Standard has now been updated to include green ammonia, green methanol and synthetic methane; address hydrogen leakage; include requirements for biomass with sustainability criteria as a source of energy for green hydrogen production; include a prequalification option for early stage projects. 

We at the Green Hydrogen Organisation are committed to the responsible scale up of the green hydrogen sector. It is essential that these efforts are not undermined by vague notions of ‘low carbon’ hydrogen touted by the fossil fuel sector or by lax approaches to measuring emissions from fossil-derived blue hydrogen.