A joint declaration published during COP28 calls for hydrogen to be prioritised for displacing fossil fuels — with verified lifecycle emissions across Scopes 1, 2 and 3 moving towards near-zero by 2030 — in response to a declaration of intent backed by host-country the UAE criticised as muddying the waters for clean H2 standards.

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The Joint-Agreement on the Responsible Deployment of Renewables-Based Hydrogen saw 59 endorsements, with less than a third from companies involved in hydrogen projects, including ACWA Power, ArcelorMittal, H2 Green Steel, CWP, and ReNew Power.

Only two governments are listed among the signatories — Panama and the national government of Scotland, but not the United Kingdom — as well as Oman’s government-founded auction service Hydrom and the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign.

The rest of the signatures come from NGOs, environmental non-profit organisations, trade associations and voluntary certification companies such as the Green Hydrogen Organisation.

The declaration includes a pledge to prioritise renewable hydrogen for displacing the current use of fossil-based H2 — produced from either coal or gas — or use it in hard-to-abate sectors where the molecule makes the most sense as a route to decarbonise.

These include, but are not limited to: fertilisers, methanol, chemicals, direct-reduced iron, fuels for shipping and aviation, seasonal electricity storage “when renewable supply to the grid is [greater than] 100%”, and “some very limited segments” of heavy-duty trucking or off-road mobility.

The declaration also highlights “most use cases related to residential & commercial heating and power generation” as potentially cannibalising renewable electricity and preventing a full transition away from fossil fuels.

The signatories also pledge to independently monitor and verify that green hydrogen is in fact produced from renewable electricity sources and not driving an increase in fossil fuel generation on the power grid where projects are located.

“Additionally, we encourage the consideration of embodied or embedded emissions when accurately reporting the net impact on emissions of hydrogen deployment,” the joint agreement adds.

In its commitment for full, lifecycle assessment of “all relevant climate warming-related emissions” from green H2 and its derivatives, the declaration also recognises a need to manage hydrogen leakage both during production and down the supply chain to its end use.

The signatories also pledge to work towards regional and internal harmonisation of certification schemes “in alignment with the above emissions accounting methodology”.

The declaration’s convenor, the UN Climate Champions, describe this to Hydrogen Insight as a direct response to the endorsement of new ISO methodology in a declaration of intent for mutual recognition of certification schemes for low-carbon and renewable hydrogen.

This rival declaration, signed by multiple countries at COP28, has been accused of only counting emissions without setting a clear threshold for “clean” H2 and potentially underreporting greenhouse gases from gas-based production.

Community benefits

The joint agreement also calls for developers to ensure community benefits and minimal environmental impacts from their green hydrogen projects.

In addition to “a net-positive impact” on biodiversity at sites, the signatories pledge to “prioritise non-freshwater sources for all required volumes of ultrapure, cooling, and raw water usage — if and only if desalination ensures proper dissemination of the resulting brine to avoid damage to salt-water environments and fish populations”.

Similarly, the agreement includes a pledge to allocate a portion of renewable energy and desalinated water to the local community, as well as practicing “sustainable water management practices” in water-stressed regions.

The signatories also agree to “actively involve all impacted communities in an accessible manner, in their respective local languages, and with full disclosure of information”, in order to ensure consent from indigenous and local communities throughout the development and lifecycle of projects.