Introducing Science Based Targets

Progressing with the Net Zero agenda has never been more important for business. However, it’s not merely about making pledges; it’s about setting credible goals and targets that are firmly grounded in climate science. 

The science behind setting targets has evolved to play a pivotal role in our transition to a more sustainable future. In this blog, we will introduce you to Science-Based Targets and in our next blog we will outline the steps required to set them.

What are Science Based Targets?

Science-based targets (SBTs) are specific, measurable goals that companies can set to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. They are based on the latest climate science and are designed to help companies contribute to the global effort to mitigate climate change.

SBTs are aligned with the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This means that companies with SBTs are committed to making significant reductions in their emissions.

How to calculate Science Based Targets

There are a number of different ways to calculate SBTs, but the most common approach is to use the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The SBTi provides a framework for companies to set SBTs that are consistent with the latest climate science.

The SBTi is a collaboration between CDP, the World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). It is supported by a team of experts who provide businesses with guidance and support throughout the SBT setting process.

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) defines science-based Net Zero as the achievement of two steps:

  • Near-term science-based targets: These are targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the next 5-10 years in line with what the latest climate science says is needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Long-term science-based targets: These are targets to reduce GHG emissions to net-zero by no later than 2050.

Near-Term Science Based Targets

Near-term science-based targets are emissions reduction goals that businesses set for the next 5-10 years. Near-term SBTs are aligned with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and achieving net-zero emissions. Near-term SBTs are important because they help businesses to make significant reductions in their emissions in the near term.

To set a near-term SBT, businesses must first calculate their baseline emissions. This is the amount of greenhouse gases that the business emits in a given year. Once the business has calculated its baseline emissions, it can then set a target to reduce those emissions by a certain percentage over the next 5-10 years.

For near-term targets, a set of criteria must be met:

  • Scope 1 and 2 Emissions: A minimum of 95% of scope 1 and 2 emissions must be addressed.
  • Scope 3 Emissions: If scope 3 emissions represent over 40% of total emissions, at least 67% of them should be targeted.

For Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs), validating their scope 3 targets isn’t obligatory within the SBTi process, but it is strongly recommended that all businesses persist in measuring and reporting their scope 3 emissions.

  • The near-term target deadlines must be established within a 5-10-year timeframe after submission, with the set targets striving for an absolute emissions reduction of at least 42% by 2040.

Long-Term Science Based Targets

Long-term (net-zero) science-based targets are goals that businesses set to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. This too is in line with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Businesses are expected to reduce emissions of at least 90-95% to reach Net Zero. This means that they will need to make significant changes to their operations, products and services.

Long-term targets must include:

  • At least 95% of scope 1 and 2 emissions
  • At least 90% of scope 3 emissions

Join us again soon for part 2 of this blog where we outlines the steps required to develop science-based targets.

If you would like support setting science-based targets for your business, our consultants can help!