The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) has started developing the first-ever global standard to ensure corporations set credible targets for net-zero emissions by 2050.
This is marked with the publication of a new SBTi paper, which lays the conceptual foundations for net-zero targets following a consultation with stakeholders from science, business, conservation and finance.
These include what it means for corporates to reach net-zero emissions, analysis of existing target-setting practices, assessment of strategies that are consistent with achieving a net-zero economy, and initial recommendations for science-based goals.
The methodologies discussed in the paper will be translated into detailed guidelines and criteria to be developed by the initiative as part of a continued multi-stakeholder process.
This comes after the UN warned in 2018 that global emissions must drop to net zero by the middle of this century for the best chance of avoiding the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
“Net zero by 2050 is our north star, but every second that passes between now and then will determine whether we get there,” said Alberto Carrillo Pineda, an author of the paper and director of science based targets at CDP.
“There is no time to lose. Alongside long-term ambition we need to see aggressive emissions reductions in line with climate science, now, and across all sectors of the global economy.”
The SBTi analyses greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets to see if they are consistent with keeping global warming to well below 2°C or 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and over 460 firms have had goals validated by the initiative.
Its latest paper concludes that corporates must neutralise the impact of any residual emissions that cannot be eliminated by permanently removing an equivalent amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Companies may choose to offset their emissions as they transition towards net-zero by purchasing carbon offsets that support projects like mass tree planting.
“However, offsetting emissions does not eliminate the need to reduce emissions in line with science,” the SBTi said. “This must remain the overarching priority for companies and the central focus of any credible net-zero strategy.”
Author: Chris Seekings
Image credit: iStock