Science-Based Targets: Take the Lead on Climate Action

cop22Welcome to our Science-Based Targets blog series. This is the first in a series of four blogs, written by myself and Will Jenkins, which has been written to coincide with COP22 currently taking place in Marrakech.

This blog series is also being written in the run up to our second science-based targets event. Our first event was extremely popular, with attendees such as BT, Vodafone, and Aviva Investors. If you would like to attend our next science-based targets event, please register here.

Science-based targets are all about translating the commitments made in the Paris Agreement into action in the business world.

In this series there will be three more blogs that will take you through our process and we will also be publishing a corporate briefing. This first blog looks at the “what”, “why” and “who” of science-based target setting.

What is a Science-Based Target?

A greenhouse gas emissions target can be considered “science-based” if the emission reductions it requires are in line with keeping the global temperature increase below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures.

By aligning targets with the level of de-carbonisation needed to keep global temperature rise below 2°C, companies can ensure their targets are meaningful and working towards avoiding the worst effects of climate change.

Why are Companies Setting Science-Based Targets?

In the UK, the 2008 Climate Change Act set a target to reduce emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. According to the UK Climate Change Committee, this target is an appropriate UK contribution to global emission reductions “consistent with limiting global temperature rise to as little as possible above 2°C. The current UK emission reduction trajectory can be seen in the figure below.


Figure 1. This graph shows two future UK scenarios: a “baseline” (i.e. no climate action after 2008, the start of the carbon budget system) and the “central” scenario underpinning the CCC’s advice on the fifth carbon budget. This data can be downloaded from the Committee on Climate Change.

With the Paris Agreement entering into force on the 4th of November 2016, a new, even stricter UK emissions reduction target is expected to replace our current 80% reduction by 2050 goal. This will undoubtedly lead to a whole raft of regulatory measures impacting corporations. Setting a science-based target will allow your company to keep ahead of public policy and prepare for the expected legislation.

Over the last few months we have had many conversations with our clients about why they are looking to set a science-based target. A few common themes have emerged:

  • Demonstrate leadership in environmental sustainability
  • Strengthen reputation through setting credible and robust targets
  • Contribute appropriately to efforts to move towards a global low-carbon economy
  • Save money through improvements in efficiency and reductions in resource use
  • Drive innovation
  • Create opportunities for growth

Who is Setting Science-Based Targets?

Carbon Credentials recently committed to setting a science-based target, along with over 192 other companies around the globe. Science-based targets ensure that companies are reducing emissions at a rate compatible with the 2° scenario and will contribute to the global effort to prevent the worst consequences of climate change.

Analysing 2016 CDP results, we can see that the uptake of science-based targets has been astounding. As the below charts show, over half of respondents have already set, or are looking to set a science-based target.


Also interesting to note is the relationship between CDP scores and science-based target setting. Less than 10% of companies that scored in the Leadership band do not anticipate setting a science-based target in the next two years, and approximately 50% of those in the Leadership category have already set science-based targets. This provides a very strong indication that setting science-based targets will be an essential element of being positioned as a climate change leader in the next few years.


Setting a Science-Based Target: How Can I Go About It?

Carbon Credentials recommends taking a three stage approach to setting a science-based target. In the next blog, we discuss the first stage of setting a science-based target, engaging with stakeholders and understanding scenarios.

To continue the conversation on science-based targets, register here for our upcoming event.

Written by Will Jenkins & Emma Watson.

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