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Science-based targets

Should your business be setting them?

If the planet had a seat at the boardroom table, what limits would it set for how much carbon was too much for the world to handle?

Science-based targets give the planet that voice. The targets are a set of goals developed by a business to provide it with a clear route to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They help businesses look ahead and work out how to pull their weight when it comes to emissions reduction.

In order to scale-up the number of businesses adopting science-based targets the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) was set-up, led by the CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, the World Resources Institute and WWF.

Around 189 countries signed up to the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees centigrade. The SBTi allows businesses to demonstrate that their subsequent targets are in line with the Agreement and latest climate science – with over 1,000 organisations signed up to date.

Five things you need to know about science based targets

They provide validation for your decarbonisation ambitions.

This is a formal, validated approach. As part of the process, your target will be approved by the SBTi.

There are specific steps to getting involved.

First, you need to submit a letter outlining your intent to set a Science Based Target. Then, work on that target and present it for official validation. Announce it and inform your stakeholders. Lastly, report your business-wide emissions and track your progress every year.

You must have a solid base.

When you’re measuring your carbon emissions, start with a credible baseline. As 2020 was a very different world, it might be better to use 2019. In addition to direct and indirect emissions (Scopes 1 and 2) your footprint should cover Scope 3 (your value chain emissions) – if they exceed a threshold proportion of your total footprint.

One size doesn’t fit all.

Everyone faces different climate challenges. While setting a target is the start of the journey, science-based targets may not be the right way forward for every business. The validation process takes time, and some companies might want to be even more ambitious by doing more than their ‘fair share’ in decarbonising – for example by reaching Net Zero on Scope 1, 2 and 3 well in advance of 2050.

Science-based targets for nature are also in development.

Climate change and nature loss are closely linked, so for businesses, developing nature-based solutions can be an ally in reaching net zero targets. A Science Based Targets Network of 45 non-profits and mission-driven organisations is working to develop targets for water, land, ocean and biodiversity.

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