Science Based Targets – a transformative route to much needed carbon reduction

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Businesses are key actors in the fight against climate change. Here we explore the concept of Science Based Targets and explain why more companies should use these to pull their weight when it comes to taking action on climate change.


What’s behind the science?

The Science Based Targets Initiative (a partnership between CDP, UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute and WWF), presents a collective approach to how businesses can respond to the Paris Agreement. It aims to ensure that companies reduce emissions in line with the commitments set out in this Global Agreement. It essentially calls on organisations to set targets aligned with the scale of reductions required to keep global temperature increase below 2°C (compared to pre-industrial temperatures).

Participating companies must be transparent in their reporting of environmental impacts. They must also link these impacts to long-term targets (spanning at least 5-15 years) and goals that will demonstrably reach the desired cut in emissions and lead to a path of decarbonisation.

The devil’s in the detail

Several approaches to setting Science Based Targets have emerged. The most popular and encouraged by the Science Based Targets Initiative is the Sectoral Decarbonisation Approach (SDA). This is the most detailed and offers the best estimate of the reduction needed to take responsibility for emissions in the sector in which you operate. As the Sectoral Decarbonisation Approach is only available for certain sectors (the property sector being one), companies in other sectors must consider other approaches such as the value added method.

The great minds at the Science Based Targets Initiative review all targets before they are accepted. They also check that any new targets positively contribute to the share of overall reductions needed by different sectors of the economy. And if more than 40 percent of a company’s emissions are from Scope 3 sources, it must also create a value chain target to sit alongside a Science Based Target. This ensures supply chain and indirect emissions are not overlooked.

Drive action

Science Based Targets can help companies set targets that reduce their impacts on a scale that is in line with what the science says is required to limit dangerous climate change. Buildings account for a third of all carbon emissions globally and so ambitious targets, which are suited to companies that account for the lion’s share of emissions, are perfect for driving change across a sector that is not currently pulling its weight.

While most companies may not realise it, they set the bar far too low with unambitious climate targets. Evidence-based (scientific) decision-making is the best way to prevent this from happening and until it becomes embedded in mainstream business thinking, we have little chance of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.

Gaining momentum

Over 300 organisations have already committed to setting Science Based Targets. This includes 12 property sector organisations including big players such as The Crown Estate and Land Securities. For these organisations, Science Based Targets are a real opportunity to drive forward change, stimulate innovation, boost credibility and corporate competitiveness, get ahead of regulatory risks and to take a genuinely transformational path towards decarbonisation.

Article written by Helen Skudder and edited by Laura Jockers, in JLLs Upstream Sustainability Services Team.

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