Science-Based Targets

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Alex Bingham
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What are Science-based targets?

Science Based Targets (SBT) are emission reduction targets in line with what the latest climate science says is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Science-based targets are specific, measurable, and time-bound objectives an organisation sets to mitigate and adapt to climate change. They are derived from the latest climate science and help an organisation stay within the limits of the planet's resources.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is an international agreement to combat climate change. The agreement was reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2015 and came into force on November 4, 2016.

Examples of science-based targets?

1. Have a maximum temperature increase of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. 

2. Halve emissions before 2030. 

3. Achieve net-zero emissions before 2050.

How do you achieve science-based targets?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as a company's approach to setting science-based targets will vary depending on the sector in which it operates, its size, and its specific circumstances. However, companies will generally need to undertake a comprehensive emissions inventory and baseline year analysis, set reduction goals that align with the latest climate science, and develop a plan to achieve those goals. Many companies are also working with the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI) to ensure their targets align with the latest climate science. Some methods include reducing the waste produced, reducing pollution, increasing renewable resources and investing in planting trees. 

What are science-based target initiatives?

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) is a partnership between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The initiative helps companies determine how much they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to achieve their science-based targets.

What are the benefits of setting science-based targets?

Science-based targets provide a roadmap for companies and organisations to transition to a low-carbon economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the most harmful impacts of climate change.

SBT also provide business benefits to organisations:

  1. Competitive Advantage: Setting science-based targets can improve a company's competitiveness and market position by demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and climate action. 
  2. Reputation: Customers and stakeholders are increasingly interested in supporting businesses taking action on climate change, so setting science-based targets can help engage and retain them. 
  3. Attracting talent: Employees are becoming more interested in working for companies taking action on sustainability, so setting science-based targets can help attract and retain the best talent. 
  4. Resilience: Managing climate-related risks are becoming increasingly important for businesses, and setting science-based targets can help them identify and mitigate these risks. 
  5. Increase innovation: Addressing climate change can also spur innovation as businesses develop new products and services to meet the needs of a low-carbon economy.
  6. Investor confidence: Setting science-based targets can help boost investor confidence by demonstrating a commitment to long-term value creation.

How is a science-based target set?

A target is science-based if it follows what the most recent climate science believes is required to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Organisations can set a target through the following procedure:

  1. Commit to the process.
  2. Develop their target in line with SBTi criteria.
  3. Submit it for validation to the SBTi.
  4. Communicate the target to stakeholders.
  5. Disclose progress annually.

Why are science-based targets important for businesses?

Science-based targets are essential because they provide a framework for businesses and organisations to set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is important because it helps to ensure that these businesses and organisations are working towards mitigating climate change. 

Science-based targets also help to hold businesses and organisations accountable for their emissions. By setting these targets, businesses and organisations are publicly declaring their commitment to reducing their emissions. This provides a level of transparency and accountability that can motivate companies and organisations to meet their targets. 

Finally, science-based targets can help businesses and organisations to save money in the long run. By setting emissions reduction goals, businesses and organisations can work to improve their energy efficiency and reduce their overall energy costs. This can positively impact the bottom line and help businesses and organisations to be more sustainable in the long term.

What is the difference between net zero and science-based targets?

Net zero targets are goals that businesses set to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to zero over a specified period of time. This involves balancing emissions with activities that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees. Science-based targets are emissions reduction goals that align with what the science says is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Who is behind science-based targets?

The Science Based Targets initiative is a partnership between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The Carbon Disclosure Project is a non-profit organisation that encourages companies to measure, disclose, manage and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The CDP holds the world's largest database of primary climate change and water information. 

The United Nations Global Compact is a voluntary initiative launched by the UN Secretary-General in 2000. It aims to encourage businesses to align their operations and strategies with the ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. 

The World Resources Institute is a global research organisation that spans more than 60 countries. They work with governments, businesses and civil society to build sustainability into the way societies operate. 

The World Wildlife Fund is a leading conservation organisation, working in more than 100 countries worldwide. They take a science-based approach to conserving the world's wildlife and habitats.

How are science-based targets used?

Science-based targets are used in various ways, including setting goals for reducing emissions, increasing energy efficiency, and conserving natural resources. They can also inform decision-making about investments in new technologies, infrastructure and production.

How many companies use science-based target initiatives?

Over 4,000 companies have committed to setting science-based targets. Click here to see which companies have committed to taking action. https://sciencebasedtargets.org/companies-taking-action

When were Science-Based Target initiatives founded?

They were founded in 2015. 

What changes has SBTi made?

As of July 2022, the criteria for targets have changed. 

  1. Scope 1 and 2 ambition for temperature classification has changed from well below 2°C to 1.5°C. 
  2. Scope 3 ambition has changed from 2°C to well below 2°C. 
  3. The time frame for targets has changed from 15 years to 10 years. 

These changes have been made in response to the urgency for action and the success of SBTi in implementing change. 

To Conclude

The need for businesses to set science-based targets has never been greater. The time to act is now. The science is clear: to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This will require net-zero emissions by 2050. Businesses play a critical role in achieving this goal, and setting science-based targets is one of the most important things they can do for our future.

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