An update on the Science Based Targets Initiative

February 21, 2019 | Insights,

New targets will only be accepted if they are consistent with limiting warming to well-below 2°C or 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Anthesis’ Curtis Harnanan walks us through the upcoming changes to the Science Based Targets Initiative, due in April, and what they will means for you.

In our past blog, two key developments for science based targets, we discussed the findings of the IPCC Special Report 1.5 and the implications of a reducing emissions along a pathway that keeps global temperature rise below 1.5°C by 2050. We also indicated that the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) will revise its current guidance, resources, tools and validation protocols to align with this new science.

Shaping revised guidelines

In November 2018, SBTi broadly consulted stakeholders via this online survey to gauge their opinions on proposed changes and to help shape its final position on each of the following topics within its revised guidelines:

  • Ambition: Should the minimum level of ambition for companies’ Scope 1 & 2 targets remain at 2°C, or increased to well-below to 2°C or 1.5°C?
  • Disclosure of ambition: Should SBTi disclose the level of ambition of approved targets?
  • Grace period: How much time should companies have to comply SBTi’s revised criteria?
  • Target re-calibration: Should SBTi implement a mandatory review of targets against the latest criteria every five years?

What’s coming in April?

On February 20th, SBTi announced that in April 2019 it will provide:

  • New technical resources and an updated set of target validation criteria, reflecting the latest science from IPCC’s October 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.
  • New resources enabling companies to set targets aligned with a well-below 2°C pathway, which under the SBTi’s new criteria will become the minimum level of ambition accepted by the initiative.

What will this mean?

As of October 2019, under the SBTi’s updated target validation criteria:

  • New targets submitted for validation will only be accepted if they are consistent with limiting warming to well-below 2°C or 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Targets consistent with limiting warming to 2°C will no longer be approved. The definition of “well-below 2°C” will be informed by the IPCC Special Report and underlying scenarios.
  • The level of ambition of all existing and new targets will be published on the SBTi website and classified under one of three categories: 1.5°C, well-below 2°C and 2°C.
  • To ensure targets remain aligned with the most recent climate science, companies will be required to review, and if necessary revalidate, their targets every five years from the date of the original target approval. This will become mandatory in 2025.

The bottom line

To circumvent some of the most severe consequences of rising global temperatures, a limit of 2°C is no longer an option. While SBTi has put in provisions to allow some flexibility in target setting and validation between now and October 2019, companies will ultimately need to increase their greenhouse gas reduction efforts with ambition to align with limiting global temperature to 1.5°C if not lower.

Learn more with our science based targets resources.

To get in touch, email Curtis Harnanan

About the Author

Curtis Harnanan is a principal consultant at Anthesis with 20 years of experience, which spans developing science based targets, enterprise and full value chain carbon footprinting, management and reporting, corporate sustainability strategy, benchmarking and reporting, organisational and product sustainability standards, hotspot analysis and policy analysis.

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