A Quick Guide To Setting Up Science-Based Targets

June 11, 2022

Rae Oliver

Science-based targets are the gold standard in global emissions reduction strategy creation, especially for corporate entities. Science-based targets provide organizations and businesses across the globe with a clear path to reduce their emissions in line with the goals laid out by the Paris Agreement. 

Thousands of businesses in every corner of the world are already working alongside the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to learn how to set science-based targets. In doing so, they can design more sustainable, environmentally sound operational strategies in line with limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C by the year 2050.

What Are Science-Based Targets?

The Science-Based Targets initiative, or SBTi, is a partnership between the World Resources Institute (WRI), the United Nations Global Compact, the CDP, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The initiative’s call to action also forms one of the We Mean Business Coalition commitments.

Science-based targets provide a framework for companies and financial institutions to gauge exactly how rapidly and to what extent they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the most severe predicted effects of global climate change. Unlike traditional potential-based targets, science-based targets follow a top-down approach. They do this by focusing on the number of emissions that must be reduced to limit global warming to 1.5°C. 

The SBTi defines and promotes best practices in emissions reduction strategies and net-zero targets in line with climate science. It provides assistance and resources to organizations that set science-based emissions reduction targets, guiding them as to how to set science-based targets. The initiative is comprised of a team of experts. These experts provide organizations with target validation and independent assessments to assist them to reach their net-zero goals and transition to a low carbon economy in line with the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign. 

The Climate Commitment Act has created separate emissions reduction pathways for around 40 facilities and businesses that qualify as Emissions-Intensive Trade-Exposed industries, or EITEs. The power sector is the single largest contributor to global CO2 emissions. It’s followed by the aluminum, steel, paper and pulp production, cement and fertilizer industries. Other hard-to-abate sectors, including transport and housing, have also been co-developed over decades with a significant reliance on the fossil fuel industry, creating an efficient but high-emitting production system that has resulted in a carbon lock-in. This dependency can be reduced. But it will require significant effort and long-term vision.

It will not be simple for new, environmentally sound production practices to compete with current routes that have developed into highly complex and integrated industrial systems over the years. The use of carbon capture and storage technologies could prolong the current fossil fuel trajectory. It may not be able to reduce emissions by more than 60-70% without major re-investments and redesigns in core production methods. The interconnectedness of these systems poses numerous challenges and makes it difficult for EITEs to set science-based targets. However, SBTi takes a mitigation-first approach that may allow high-emitting industries and organizations to effectively reduce their emissions. All while using other technologies such as carbon capture to further their net-zero strategies.

How to Set Science-Based Targets

1. Establish GHG Inventories

The first step in setting science-based targets is to establish GHG inventories to see the current impact and project baselines. SINAI’s platform enables organizations to aggregate, sort, and filter their emissions data. You can compare resource consumption and primary emissions sources, and identify key trends, patterns, and emissions hot-spots with ease.

2. Evaluate Mitigation Options

The next step is to assess your options for mitigation. SINAI’s technologies enable organizations to find the best decarbonization opportunities. By generating automatic Marginal Abatement Cost Curves (MAC Curves) and Levelized Cost Curves, you can compare marginal abatement costs of mitigation options across business units.

3. Develop

The next step involves developing a robust emissions reduction target and plan of action in line with the SBTi’s criteria. The SBTi is continuously updating and strengthening its criteria and recommendations. It is the responsibility of organizations to understand and meet all of the criteria in order for their targets to be recognized by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

4. Commit

Organizations that plan on reducing their emissions in line with science-based targets must submit a letter announcing their intent to set a science-based target. These organizations will need to present their targets to the SBTi for official validation before announcing their targets to their stakeholders and investors.

5. Disclose

Lastly, organizations will need to disclose and report on company-wide emissions and track their target progress on an annual basis in order to reach their SBTi-officiated emissions reduction targets.

Why Decarbonization In Key for Science-Based Targets

Not all decarbonization strategies are in line with the guidance and stipulations laid out by the SBTi. Unfortunately, strategies that are not aligned with this guidance may lack consistency and standardization, and in many cases may not prioritize decarbonization at all. Efforts such as replacing value chain emissions reductions with carbon credits are not enough to constitute a robust and scientifically sound emissions reduction plan.

The newly introduced SBTi Net Zero Standard aims to reduce ‘green-washing’ and ensure that all companies work in the same direction with regard to their net-zero goals. The most efficient way to reach science-based targets is by using a decarbonization strategy based on the SBTi’s guidelines and principles. 

The Standard has redefined what credible and realistic net-zero targets look like, and has clarified the core roles of decarbonization in corporate emissions reduction strategies. Now, science-based corporate net-zero targets will require:

  • Emissions reductions in line with a global temperature rise of 1.5°C before 2050 across Scopes 1, 2 and 3
  • Near term targets to lower emissions over the next 5-10 years
  • Long-term decarbonization of 90% across all scopes before 2050
  • Limited dependence on carbon removals
  • External validation of net-zero targets and yearly progress reporting

Set Science-Based Targets With Confidence

SINAI uses granular-level data modeling and analytics technologies to simplify data tracking and reporting. Our platform guides your organization on how to set science-based targets in line with the SBTi’s guidance. With the power of smart technology, we’ll help you build deep decarbonization strategies and transition toward net-zero

Join our platform today and see what our first-in-class decarbonization tools can do.

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