Science Based Targets initiative unveils bid to help more businesses set 1.5C goals

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has unveiled new measures designed to help more businesses align their emissions targets with the Paris Agreement's most ambitious trajectory, in the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) landmark report on climate change.

Science Based Targets initiative unveils bid to help more businesses set 1.5C goals

Only four businesses - BT

The body announced on Wednesday (20 February) that it will publish an update to its target validation criteria in April, in a bid to encourage more businesses to set ambitious carbon reduction aims in line with a 1.5C pathway. A key change is that a “well-below 2C” pathway will become a minimum requirement, up from the current 2C criteria. 

To support the creation of more ambitious goals, the SBTi will also release a new set of resources for businesses, providing them with practical advice surrounding the goal development, submission and verification processes.

The body, which consists of representatives from CDP, UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF, will additionally publish a table ranking all new and existing science-based targets by their level of ambition. Due for completion in October and set to be made openly available online, the SBTi claims the table will help “incentivise a race to the top”.

A further change is that companies with SBTi-approved goals will be required to review their aims every five years and alter them, if necessary, to align with the latest climate science. This will become a mandatory process in 2025.

These moves from the SBTi follow on from the publication of the IPCC’s special report last October, which warned that 2C of warming would result in “significantly worse” risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people than 1.5C.

Drawing on more than 4,000 pieces of scientific research, the report concluded that a half-degree difference could also prevent corals from being completely eradicated and ease pressure on the Arctic.

“The IPCC Special Report was a wake-up call for the global economy – there is an urgent need to step up ambition in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and avoid devastating global warming,” WWF’s global lead for science-based targets Alexander Farsan said.

“Companies have a vital role to play in realising this goal and the latest science from the IPCC has shown the way forward. We urge companies to raise the bar and set the pace of change that we know is needed.”

New science, new ambitions

An update to the SBTi guidelines has been in the pipeline since the IPCC report was published on 15 October last year.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion to mark Green GB Week 2018 – held just days after the report was published –  WWF’s senior policy advisor Jaco Du Toit revealed that the SBTi had already begun developing new tools to enable companies to set more ambitious carbon reduction targets.

Since its formation in 2015, the SBTi has approved the carbon reduction targets of more than 160 companies, with the likes of home improvement retailer Kingfisher and sportswear brand Asics among the latest firms to have their 2C goals rubber-stamped.  

A further 350 companies have pledged to set approved targets within the next two years, including confectionary giant Hershey Company, which announced this commitment last month. In total, more than 800 firms have publicly voiced their support for the SBTi.

However, only four companies – BT, Carlsberg, Tesco and Pukka Herbs – have set verified targets in line with a 1.5C pathway to date.

Speaking at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum in London earlier this month, Tesco’s head of environment Kené Umeasiegbu and BT’s head of environmental sustainability Gabrielle Giner shed new light on how their respective sustainability teams were able to achieve business buy-in for their 1.5C ambitions. You can read their insight here.

Sarah George

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