One hundred and fifty companies have now signed up to the Science Based Targets (SBT) initiative, whereby companies set their greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in line with climate science. That is, they set targets that take into account the need to meet a global warming target of not more than 2°C above pre-industrialised levels. Companies that have successfully developed SBTs include Thalys, Dell, Sony, and Proctor & Gamble.
There are several different methodologies that can be used to set SBTs and each of these has its own particular advantages and disadvantages. One methodology uses least-cost mitigation strategies for specific sectors and considers the company’s own contribution to that sector’s activity. Another is based on the required reduction in greenhouse gases per unit of GDP and a company’s contribution to that GDP. Targets need to be long-term, usually out to 2030 or beyond.
The Paris climate deal, which was formally signed by 130 countries on 22nd April, is a legally binding agreement to keep global warming well below 2°C because scientists predict that greater temperature gains will cause irreversible environmental damage, which will have social and economic impacts. Individual countries made commitments to cut emissions in the lead-up to the Paris talks. Collectively, it is estimated that these current plans would limit global warning by 2.7°C and, therefore, regular review and ratcheting up of commitments is planned.
People looking for evidence of change after the Paris agreement have found mixed results. In the United States, uncertainty continues in the lead-up to the US elections and the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s scheme to cut emissions from power generation has been delayed pending the outcome of a lawsuit. However, the private sector is increasingly taking the Paris Agreement as an opportunity as it sets a certainty of direction. Ahead of the Climate Action Summit in Washington last week, it was announced that 25 firms with US headquarters had signed up to SBTs in addition to 77 companies in Europe and 34 in the Asia Pacific region, which followed a surge of interest in the schemes after the Paris talks.
Companies that sign up to SBTs are those that often demonstrate leadership and bring about change and innovation. Under SBTs, they intend to benefit from improved performance and to be prepared for future years when more stringent target setting is likely to become mandatory.
“The enthusiasm companies have shown to setting ambitious climate targets is very encouraging,” says Cynthia Cummis from the World Resources Institute (WRI), one of the four organisations that make up the SBT initiative. “Our technical reviewers cannot keep up with the number of targets being submitted. This is a great problem to have and a clear indication that the Paris Agreement was a turning point for climate action.”
The Science Based Targets initiative is a partnership between CDP, UN Global Compact, WRI, and WWF. The initiative provides technical resources to help companies set science-based emissions targets, and recognises companies that commit to this important action. More information can be found here.