Make 2017 the year you get on the low-carbon track – with a science-based target

24th Jan 2017

With the Paris Climate Agreement now in force, alongside the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we start 2017 with a powerful common agenda for achieving peace and prosperity on a healthy planet by 2030. To achieve this sustainable, low-carbon future, business needs to scale up its essential role in demonstrating the transformation that is required across the private sector and beyond.

2016 signaled a new era of business engaging with the challenges of the 21st century. There was unprecedented growth in corporate initiatives supporting the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For example, over 200 of the world’s biggest companies have now committed to the Science Based Targets initiative. Of these, 32 companies have had their targets approved by the initiative including some of the the world’s largest companies from sectors such as retail, food and beverage, and technology. While this is an impressive take up, it is also only the beginning: this year needs to see a huge step up in the magnitude, scale and urgency of corporate action if global warming is to be successfully limited to well below 2°C and dangerous climate change prevented. Companies from all regions and sectors need to join the initiative and set the ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets it champions to ensure that the transformational action they are taking, or plan to take, is aligned with current climate science.

The Science Based Targets initiative provides companies with a clearly defined pathway to future-proof growth by specifying how much and how quickly they need to reduce their emissions. Setting a science-based target is a powerful way of boosting a business’s competitive advantage in the transition to the low-carbon economy. The initiative showcases how companies that set science-based targets see increased innovation, reduced regulatory uncertainty, strengthened investor confidence and improved profitability and competitiveness.

The growing momentum behind the Science Based Targets initiative, which is run collaboratively by CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), is proof of the private sector’s positive response to the Paris Agreement goals alongside its growing recognition of new opportunities for business growth and innovation through climate action.

According to the UNEP Gap Emissions Report, even with the Paris Agreement pledges, the world is still heading for temperature rise of 2.9-3.4°C this century. This can only be reduced to safe levels (ie. well below 2°C) through further emissions cuts of between 12-14 gigatonnes of net CO2 by 2030. The private sector can play a critical role in achieving this by setting science-based targets to help close the ‘emissions gap’.

It is particularly crucial for business to set sufficiently ambitious emission reduction targets in 2017 since all parties to the Paris Agreement will be taking stock of the collective efforts in relation to progress towards the agreement’s goals. This will be used to inform the preparation of their Nationally Determined Contributions (national emission reduction plans), to be formally submitted in 2018. Companies can support their governments to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement by seizing this moment to apply all their skills, expertise and ingenuity to the challenge – and business opportunity – that cutting global emissions offers. Indeed, according to analysis by the We Mean Business coalition, of which the Science Based Targets initiative is a member, implementing the Paris Agreement will unlock at least $13.5 trillion of economic activity globally.

Learn more about how companies can play a critical role in the transition to the low-carbon future by joining the Science Based Targets initiative.