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The Next Economy
Science Based Targets Initiative Developing Global Standard for Corporate Net-Zero Targets

SBTi has released a new paper that lays the foundations for establishing credible, science-based net-zero targets for the corporate sector.

Today, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) launches a process to develop the first science-based global standard for corporate net-zero target-setting, to ensure that companies’ targets translate into action that is consistent with achieving a net-zero world by no later than 2050 — in accordance with the recommendations in the IPCC’s 2018 Special Report on 1.5°C, 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 process coincides with the publication of a new paper that lays out the conceptual foundations for credible, science-based net-zero targets for the corporate sector.

SBTI’s new paper, Foundations for Science-Based Net-Zero Target Setting in the Corporate Sector, lays the 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 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 guidelines and criteria to be developed into a global standard, as part of a continued multi-stakeholder process.

The SBTi evaluates whether companies’ greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets are consistent with keeping warming to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures.

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In July 2019, SBTi, the UN Global Compact and the We Mean Business coalition  announced that 28 companies — with a combined market capitalization of $1.3 trillion — had set the bar for corporate climate ambitions by joining Business Ambition for 1.5°C. The campaign saw the companies committing themselves to more ambitious climate targets aligned with reaching net-zero emissions by no later than 2050. Since the launch of the campaign, enrollment in the initiative has ballooned to over 270 companies.

Among the new paper’s conclusions:

  • For a corporate net-zero target to be science-based, it must lead to decarbonization necessary in the global economy to limit warming to 1.5°C.

  • Companies may choose to offset their emissions as they transition towards net zero, but offsetting 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.

“Net zero by 2050 is our north star, but every second that passes between now and then will determine whether we get there. There is no time to lose,” asserted Alberto Carrillo Pineda, a report author and Director of Science Based Targets at CDP, a partner of SBTi. “Alongside long-term ambition, we need to see aggressive emissions reductions in line with climate science, now, and across all sectors of the global economy. Hundreds of companies around the world are already showing that this is possible and putting their trust in science to build the zero-carbon economy of the future.”

The private sector’s uptake of science-based targets — over 970 companies have committed to set science-based targets and 460 have targets validated by the SBTi; more and more companies are committing to not just net zero, but time-bound, net-positive strategies; and just yesterday, Google threw down its own gauntlet when it announced it has erased its entire “carbon legacy” — may be signs that the transition to a zero-carbon economy is indeed underway.