The European Climate Neutral Data Center Pact group has created an audit tool so companies' environmental claims can be verified, and checked against the EU's Taxonomy regulation.

The group of data center and cloud operators, which has committed to reach climate neutrality by 2030, has produced an Audit Framework, so its members' efforts can be assessed by auditors. The Framework will enable real achievements to be distinguished from greenwash, and satisfy the EU's efforts to make the continent climate neutral by 2050.

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– Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact

The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, formed in 2019, is a collective effort by service providers in Europe to provide a self-regulated pathway for the data center sector, to the EU's desired position of climate neutrality, in which the sector will propose agreed requirements, without the EU having to impose them.

The Pact is a "Self-Regulatory Initiative (SRI)" under the EU's rules, and all the signatories have committed to meet a set of goals covering issues including energy efficiency, use of green power, water use, recycling, and reuse of waste heat.

The group has already started setting concrete goals, such as the recent commitment to cut water use to 400ml per kWh, and registering proposals with the EU. It has been gathering new members, and now brings together 104 operators and service providers.

The Audit Framework, developed with French certification company Bureau Veritas, is a pack of guidance that will enable auditors to independently verify whether operators have met the promises of the Pact and the requirements of the Taxonomy - the framework the EU has set up to track and guide progress towards climate neutrality (EU Taxonomy Regulation 2020/852)

From 2023, all Pact signatories will have to use the Auditing Framework to demonstrate they are complying with the SRI. "It will no longer be possible to simply claim adherence and Pact signatories will stand out for their verifiable sustainability credentials," says the Pact announcement.

Using the framework, other auditors will be able to assess claims to be meeting the Pact's promises. "The framework will prove indispensable for those seeking ‘green funding’ for data center investment or specific digital initiatives," says the Pact's announcement.

The Pact hopes that audited claims to meet SRI promises will be used by customers to choose a data center provider, and suggests that the Audit Framework could be used in public procurement guidelines for the cloud.

The Framework will also be used as part of the credentials for services offered under the Gaia-X European cloud initiative.

It should also have an important role in reducing duplication. Data center operators can already certify against standards including CEN-CENELEC, the EU Code of Conduct, and International (ISO/EIC) standards; under the Framework, any equivalent standards will be recognized so operators don't have to certify twice.

And the comparisons go beyond the EU - standards from the US ASHRAE and ANSI/ISA groups will also be included, so the Framework can be used to assess the green progress of global operators.

“Today sees the culmination of a detailed project to create a solid foundation to underpin our signatories’ commitments," said Michael Winterson, chair of the European Data Centre Association (EUDCA) "With less than two years until compliance with some of our targets is required, the Framework marks an important acceleration in our journey as we place formal, independent verification of our environmental sustainability at the heart of the Pact.”

“The implementation of the CNDCP Audit Framework marks an end to accusations of greenwashing across the industry,” said Francisco Mingorance, secretary general of CISPE and Pact Board Member. “With this tool signatories can demonstrate and prove the steps they are taking to comply with the far-reaching commitments set out in the Pact’s Self-Regulator Initiative. We do not know of any other industries that have taken such definitive steps to back up sustainability claims.”

“This is a significant step for our sector, and indeed any sector,” added Matt Pullen, EVP, Managing Director Europe at CyrusOne member of the board at CNDCP. “We will be moving swiftly to achieve certification and to act as a role model for other operators and other businesses by proving we do what we say we’ll do to protect the planet.”

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