What are Science-Based Targets (SBT)?

SBTs are a way for companies to define emissions reduction targets. Unlike traditional “potential-based targets”, SBTs follow a “top-down” approach: they focus on the quantity of emissions that needs to be reduced in order to meet the targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement, limiting global warming to 1.5°C. In addition, the Net-Zero Standard, launched in October 2021, gives companies a science-based framework for defining ambitious and effective climate targets with a long-term goal of achieving net-zero emissions.

The driving force behind SBTs is the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), a joint initiative of CDP, UNGC, WRI and WWF that develops methods and criteria for effective corporate climate action and validates corporate targets. Such targets must take into account scopes 1 and 2 according to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Standard. If a company's scope 3 emissions account for more than 40 per cent of its total scope 1, scope 2 and scope 3 emissions, the targets must also cover scope 3.

Science-based Targets: Grafic describing the scopes 1, 2 and 3 of carbon emissions

Furthermore, company targets must focus on emissions reductions within its own value chain. Offsets and avoided emissions are not counted towards the science-based targets. They represent a voluntary option and an additional commitment to paying a financial contribution towards emissions reductions beyond the SBT.

Take a look at the SBTi criteria for more detailed information.

The SBTi also developed a Net-Zero Standard for companies. This provides a clear and science-based definition of net zero and is the world’s first framework in the private sector for setting long-term, ambitious and science-based net zero targets.

Key requirements of the Net-Zero Standard

  1. Aim for rapid and significant emissions reductions

    To effectively limit global warming to 1.5°C, rapid and far reaching action must be taken to reduce emissions in the value chain. Therefore, the Net-Zero Standard covers the entire value chain of a company across scope 1, scope 2 and scope 3 emissions. The inclusion of indirect emissions (scopes 2 and 3) requires most companies to achieve significant decarbonisation of at least 90 per cent to reach the Net-Zero Standard.
     
  2. Short- and long-term climate targets are needed

    Companies that wish to align their climate targets with the Net-Zero Standard need to set both short- and long-term, science-based targets. So short-term targets that reduce emissions as quickly and effectively as possible are required in order to halve corporate emissions by 2030 at best. There is also a need for long-term targets that facilitate net zero by 2050, whereby investments in climate protection projects with sink benefits (removals) are used for all residual emissions that cannot be avoided.
  3. No net-zero aspirations until long-term targets are achieved

    Most companies must reduce their emissions by at least 90 per cent by 2050. Even if a company sets long-term and ambitious reduction targets and makes efforts to meet them, it is not considered a net-zero company until these targets are met.
     
  4. Act beyond the value chain

    The Net-Zero Standard recommends that companies also make investments outside the value chain to mitigate climate change, for example in carbon offset projects. However, these investments should not be seen as a substitute for significant emissions reductions within the company. Rather, they should serve to complement the established and ambitious climate targets, underscoring the company's commitment to net zero by 2050.

You can find more information on science-based targets here.

Sources:
Ambitious corporate climate action - Science Based Targets 2021
The Net-Zero Standard - Science Based Targets 2021

You can find further exciting information on the subject of climate change and climate protection in our climate booklet

Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi): What is it?

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