SBTi to develop first global standard for corporate net-zero targets

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has today launched a process to develop the first science-based global standard for corporate net-zero target setting, to ensure that companies’ net-zero targets translate into action that is consistent with achieving a net-zero world by no later than 2050.

The process is marked with the publication of a new paper that lays out the conceptual foundations for credible, science-based net-zero targets for the corporate sector.

The 2018 Special Report on 1.5°C from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that global emissions must drop to net-zero by 2050 for the best chance of avoiding the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

The new paper from the SBTi, Foundations for Science-Based Net-Zero Target Setting in the Corporate Sector, is published following extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders from the scientific, business, conservation and financial spheres.

The paper lays out the conceptual foundations for corporate net-zero target setting, including clarity on what it means for companies to reach net-zero emissions, analysis of existing net-zero target setting practices, assessment of strategies that are consistent with achieving a net-zero economy, and initial recommendations for science-based net-zero goals. The conceptual foundations discussed in the paper will be translated into detailed guidelines and criteria to be developed by the initiative as part of a continued multi-stakeholder process.
The paper authors conclude that:

-Climate science must inform net-zero strategies in the corporate sector to ensure that the growing momentum behind net-zero translates into action that is consistent with achieving a net-zero world by no later than 2050;

-For a corporate net-zero target to be science-based, two conditions must be met:

1.) It must lead to a depth of decarbonisation consistent with the profound cut in emissions needed in the global economy to limit warming to 1.5°C and;

2.) It must neutralise the impact of any sources of residual emissions that cannot be eliminated by permanently removing an equivalent amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

-Companies may choose to offset their emissions as they transition towards a state of net-zero emissions. This can help direct much needed finance from companies to activities that can avoid emissions or bring down the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere. However, offsetting emissions does not eliminate the need to reduce emissions in line with science: this must remain the overarching priority for companies and the central focus of any credible net-zero strategy.

Currently, the SBTi validates companies’ greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets if they are consistent with keeping warming to well below 2°C or 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. Over 990 companies have committed to set science-based targets and over 460 have targets validated by the initiative.

To date, over 270 companies have made commitments in line with reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 through the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign, led by the SBTi in partnership with the UN Global Compact and the We Mean Business coalition.


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