Science Based Targets Initiative Releases Revised Criteria

April 19, 2019 | Insights
Guidance table from the science based targets initiative

The Science Based Targets Initiative has released revised criteria, resources, tools and validation protocols, in response to the IPCC Special Report 15, which strongly recommends reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a level that ensures global temperature increases remain below 1.5°C by 2050. Curtis Harnanan explains the changes.

Overview of revisions

In this latest release, the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) provides:

The new SBTi criteria comes with some built-in flexibility to allow companies the option of aligning their reduction targets with the following pathways:

  • 1.5°C, or
  • well-below 2°C pathway – the new minimum level of ambition only accepted by SBTi as of October 2019.

Companies will have a grace period of six months from the release date of these new (Version 4) criteria, before having to fully comply with them. During the intervening period, companies may still set their targets with a 2°C pathway and following Version 3.0 of SBTi’s criteria.

Timetable of actions from the science based targets initiative

From October 2019 onwards

  • 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 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. Companies with already approved targets will receive a letter in April that notifies them as to which of these three categories their current goals are classified, and inviting them to voluntarily consider increasing their level of ambition (unless they’re already at 1.5°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

According to the IPCC, global GHG emissions need to halve by 2030, and then drop to net-zero by 2050 to circumvent some of the most severe consequences of rising global temperatures. Limiting global temperature rise to 2°C is no longer an option. While SBTi has put in place provisions to allow some flexibility in target setting and validation, companies will ultimately need to increase the ambition of their GHG reduction efforts to align with 1.5°C or more ambitious pathways.

Curtis Harnanan
Principal Consultant, North America
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; hotspots analysis, and policy analysis.

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