Science-Based Targets: everything you need to know

Some large corporations are leading the way in a bid to tackle climate change with science-based targets. What are the benefits of committing to these emissions reductions and how can your business get involved?

WHAT ARE SCIENCE-BASED TARGETS?

Science-based targets came about as a result of the Paris agreement in 2015. In this legally binding treaty, 195 parties committed to limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. Then in 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that global warming should not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.

To achieve this, GHG emissions must halve by 2030, and drop to net zero by 2050. A ‘science-based’ emissions target stays in line with the scale of reductions required to meet these objectives. These goalposts track progress and give the private sector a clear idea of how quickly they need to reduce their GHG emissions to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

In the global race towards net zero, science-based targets will become crucial for business growth across the sectors. Not only do they help tackle climate change, but they boost a company’s competitiveness in a changing market.

A UNITED INITIATIVE

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) was set up by CDP, World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). The group supports companies that have set science-based targets. They have found that the positive effects for these businesses include increased innovation, strengthened investor confidence and improved profitability.

The STBi also:

  1. Defines and promotes best practice in science-based target setting via the support of a Technical Advisory Group.
  2. Offers resources, workshops and guidance to reduce barriers to adoption.
  3. Independently assesses and approves companies’ targets.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SETTING SCIENCE-BASED TARGETS?

There are many benefits to setting science-based targets. By significantly reducing emissions, you are not only building a brighter future for the planet but a potentially profitable one for your business.

Here are some of the benefits of setting science-based targets:

  • Illustrate excellent CSR – For large corporates there is a growing responsibility to take action against climate change, science-based targets are a way to do this.
  • Deliver a competitive advantage – Integrating environmental policies into your business strategy helps your business stand out in a crowded marketplace.
  • Involve the whole company – Engage with internal and external stakeholders to help your business achieve or even exceed targets.
  • Reduce large costs – Lowering emissions often requires a closer look at your energy portfolio and making your utilities as efficient and low carbon as possible. This can result in significant savings for your business.
  • Investor confidence – 52% of execs have seen investor confidence boosted by targets. As TCFD recommendations come into play and climate-related risks become more important, this will only become more prevalent.
  • Increase innovation – 63% of company execs say science-based targets drive innovation.

HOW DO YOU SET A SCIENCE-BASED TARGET?

There are three approaches to setting a science-based target (SBT):

  1. Sector-based approach – The global carbon budget is divided by sector and emission reductions allocated to individual companies based on its sector’s budget.
  2. Absolute-based approach – All companies will equally work towards the same per cent reduction in absolute emissions.
  3. Economic-based approach – A carbon budget is equated to global GDP and a company’s share of emissions is determined by its gross profit since the sum of all companies’ gross profits worldwide equate to global GDP.

HOW CAN BUSINESSES GET INVOLVED?

For a business to get involved in the initiative there is a simple 4 step process to follow:

  1. Submit a letter to say you are committed to the scheme.
  2. Develop your own science-based target within 24 months.
  3. Submit your target for validation.
  4. Announce your target.

838 companies are currently taking science-based climate action and 343 companies have approved science-based targets.

HOW EIC CAN HELP

Creating science-based targets is essential for businesses of every size as we progress towards net zero targets. To create these targets, a business must first understand its consumption. At EIC we offer a range of comprehensive services that can help you help your business.

We are already partnering with leading UK private and public sector organisations – supporting them to transform their operations in line with ambitious targets. This will help them future-proof their business and save the planet.

EIC can assist in meeting your science-based targets by:

  • Establishing your carbon footprint to act as your baseline.
  • Provide recommendations to reduce your carbon impact.
  • Set your target to reduce your carbon footprint to meet the 1.5°C objective.
  • Create an ongoing Carbon Management Plan.
  • Create and publish all documentation required for the scheme.
  • Work with you to embed the strategy into your business.

To learn more about EIC’s carbon and net zero services, contact us today.

COP26: what we need to achieve at the climate conference

The Covid-19 pandemic brought humanity’s vulnerability into sharp focus, emphasising the importance of international collaboration. Now, as extreme weather events wreak havoc around the world, the climate emergency is beginning to receive global recognition. This could spur real change at the COP26 conference, which will be held in Glasgow this November.

The summit is likely to be shaped by a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report warns that there is now a very small window to reduce emissions before exceeding the emissions limit of 1.5°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement. With this in mind, the gravity of COP26 cannot be overstated.

We look at the expected objectives for COP26, and how these crucial policy shifts could impact businesses across the UK.

Ambitious targets for 2030

So far, the focus has been on achieving net zero by 2050. But countries are now being asked to come forward with ambitious emissions reductions targets for 2030.

According to the new IPCC report, global CO2 emissions need to decrease by about 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. Otherwise, if they continue to rise at the current rate, global temperatures are projected to increase by more than 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052.

The UK has a significant part to play in this effort. Despite making up less than 1% of the global population, the UK is historically the fifth-largest contributor of carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

For the private sector, this will most likely result in a greater emphasis on science-based targets. Science-based targets aim to reduce emissions, through concrete, corporate objectives. These shorter-term goalposts are designed to track progress for businesses, providing greater transparency on the road to net zero and beyond.

Prioritising adaptation

The IPCC report warns that even with global decarbonisation efforts, it will take decades for the planet to recover. This doesn’t mean that achieving net zero by 2050 and staying within the 1.5°C limit wouldn’t result in immediate benefits (such as improved air quality). But it could take twenty to thirty years for global temperatures to stabilise.

Critically, some of the damage could be irreversible. According to the report, numerous climate-related weather events will continue to cause disruption for centuries to come. This means that adaptation will be just as important as mitigation efforts.

Adaptation methods involve adjustments to ecological, social or economic systems in anticipation of climate change. These can range from building flood defences and early warning systems to changes in government policy and redesigning communication systems.

These methods can coincide with mitigation methods, which focus on reducing emissions.

Given the current state of play, it makes sense that adaptation and resilience are principle themes at the upcoming COP26 event. These are key considerations for large businesses hoping to thrive in the future.

Reforestation and conservation

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised new domestic pledges and plans to garner international commitments on “coal, cars, cash and trees”.

He said: “We want COP26, the UN great summit, to commit to restoring nature and habitat and ending the massacre of the forests, because trees are among our best natural defences against climate change. To be net-zero for carbon you must be net-positive for trees and by 2030 we want to be planting far more trees across the world than we are losing.”

The UK has faced criticism in the past for having the lowest levels of tree cover, compared to its European neighbours. Forests currently cover just 13% of the country. To reach its net zero target, the Committee on Climate Change has said that tree cover in the UK needs to rise to 17% by 2050.

Mobilising green finance

According to a new analysis from WWF, the UK government’s committed spending is currently well below the required rates to meet its legally binding net-zero emissions target.

Financing green initiatives is essential to combatting climate change, and mobilising green finance is a key objective for COP26.

Achieving our climate goals will require public finance for the development of infrastructure and private finance for innovation and technology. In this transition every company, bank, financial firm and investor will be expected not only to follow, but to lead change.

How can EIC help your business to prepare?

We can provide a bespoke, adaptable roadmap to net zero for your organisation – ensuring carbon compliance and long-term financial stability along the way. Our comprehensive energy and carbon services help guide organisations towards a more sustainable future.

Our goal is to help companies navigate the transition to a low carbon economy. We recognise that while policy decisions drive decarbonisation, every business has a part to play.

To learn more about our net zero and sustainability services, contact us at EIC today.