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SBTi to develop global science-based standard for corporate net zero targets

Published September 23, 2020

SBTi to develop global science-based standard for corporate net zero targets

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) is developing a science-based global standard for setting corporate net zero targets.  

It is hoped the standard will ensure large companies can translate their net zero targets into effective action. Although companies may offset their emissions as they transition to net zero, climate science means they will still need to reduce carbon emissions to reach the final destination.  

A new SBTi paper from the initiative provides the conceptual foundations of net zero target setting. The paper clarifies what is meant for companies to reach net-zero emissions, analyses existing target setting practices, assesses strategies to achieve a net-zero economy, and provides recommendations for science-based net-zero goals.  

The conceptual foundations discussed in the paper will be translated into guidelines and criteria to be developed by the initiative. 

Nick Fedson, Alfa Energy’s sustainability analyst, commented: “The work the SBTi is doing is very important. In bringing in a proper framework for net zero targets for corporates, we hope to see an end to wishy-washy PR stunt net zero targets. The 1.5C target set by the Paris Agreement in 2015 is still the backdrop, but in the last couple of years net zero has become the fastest growing concept in decarbonisation. Countries have been setting net zero targets for some time now, and to see the SBTi develop guidance for corporates to do the same is encouraging.” 

For a corporate net zero target to be science-based, two conditions must be met, according to the SBTi paper. They are:  

  • the target must lead to a depth of decarbonisation consistent with the cut in emissions needed in the global economy to limit warming to 1.5°C  
  • it must neutralise the impact of any sources of residual emissions that cannot be eliminated by permanently removing an equivalent amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide. For the SBTi, a net zero strategy must focus on emissions reduction.