Private sector targets for reducing emissions must help to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to updated criteria. The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) announced the more stringent rules for registering corporate targets in July 2021, in anticipation of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
SBTi is a collaboration between CDP, the UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The initiative helps businesses set emissions reduction targets in line with climate science. The previous criteria for SBTi targets called for aligning corporate strategies with limiting global temperature by “well below 2 degrees Celsius.” Targets set under the earlier criteria will be phased out from the framework, SBTi reports, while “all companies and financial institutions that submit targets from 15 July 2022 will need to align to the new criteria.”
Targets aligned with 1.5°C temperature rise are already “the most common choice” for businesses, SBTi reports, accounting for 66% of submissions in 2021. Going forward, the SBTi will work to generate more 1.5°C aligned science-based targets from companies in high-emitting sectors and across G20 countries.
Explaining the need for the change in criteria, Lila Karbassi, SBTi Board Chair and Chief of Programmes at UN Global Compact, said such targets must be scaled up and adopted in order for the world “to have a fighting chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C.”
Selwin Hart, Special Adviser and Assistant Secretary-General for Climate Action at the UN, said: “Increasing the ambition level … provides much needed clarity to businesses on setting credible emissions reduction targets.” He urged more companies to set SBTi targets, and called on those that have done so to back them up with “clear and credible plans to achieve them.”
On 6 August 2021, the IPCC approved a summary for policy makers of the AR6 section on the science underpinning climate change. The summary reports IPCC scientists’ finding that “many of the changes due to past and future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets, and global sea level.” The summary presents five emissions scenarios to illustrate potential changes in the climate system.
The summary indicates that:
- human influence has warmed the climate system;
- widespread and rapid changes in the climate have occurred;
- the scale of these recent changes is unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years;
- with further global warming, every region is projected to experience changes, with extremes, such as heavy precipitation, becoming greater in frequency and intensity;
- global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered;
- unless there are deep reductions in CO2 and other GHG emissions in the coming decades, 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century; and
- the effects of strong, rapid, and sustained emission reductions in terms of global surface temperature trends will begin to emerge after around 20 years.
This section of AR6 was prepared by the IPCC’s first Working Group (WG1). Two more sections are forthcoming: WG II assesses impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability; and WG III assesses mitigation options. [SBTi press release] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on WG 1 section]