Let’s limit warming to 1.5°C: Our new 2021-2025 strategy

15th Jul 2021

Within five years, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has become the fastest-growing and most reputable climate mitigation initiative in the corporate sector. We have mobilized more than 1500 companies in 60 countries and 50 sectors to align their decarbonization plans with climate science in a robust and credible way.

This is a huge achievement and we are very proud of this rate of adoption. However, this is not time to relax - far from it. The need for climate action is increasingly urgent.

Climate science is clear. In order to limit warming to 1.5°C and avoid the worst effects of climate breakdown, global emissions must be halved by 2030. Despite significant progress in recent years, the world is not yet on a trajectory that is consistent with the Paris Agreement and limiting warming to 1.5°C.

Recent SBTi research found that, despite significant progress in science-based target setting in G7 countries, no major G7 index is currently aligned with the Paris goals. Uptake also remains limited among companies in emerging economies and in sectors with higher abatement costs.

Scaling up immediate action consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C is our last opportunity to preserve society as we know it. The next few years are critical. That’s why we’ve launched a bold new strategy to accelerate and mainstream 1.5°C-aligned corporate targets.

Introducing the new SBTi strategy

Increasing ambition

In 2018, following the release of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C, the SBTi began a public consultation process that led to the review of our target setting framework and broader strategy. Back then, 2°C scenarios were the backbone of our framework. Of the 220+ companies with approved targets, only a handful were consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.

We faced an important dilemma. There was a clear case to raise ambition in corporate target setting, but we didn’t want to slow momentum and set the bar at an unattainable level for most companies. With this in mind, we raised minimum ambition within the SBTi framework from 2°C to well-below 2°C and, at the same time, launched an engagement campaign to accelerate 1.5°C corporate target-setting.

To this end, the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign launched in May 2019 with support from a wide range of business-facing organisations and backed by 28 early movers in 1.5°C-alignment within the corporate sector.

Much has changed since then. We have seen an unprecedented increase in ambition. Nationally, we have seen increased climate ambition across some of the largest economies, including China, the US, EU, UK and Japan, among others. Within the corporate sector, 1.5°C-aligned targets are now the most common choice, representing 66% of all submissions to the SBTi so far in 2021. The Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign has also grown from 28 to more than 600 companies worldwide in just two years. Today, these companies represent $13 trillion in market capitalization, just less than the GDP of China.

Acknowledging the unprecedented growth in ambition, but also, the still prevailing gap, the SBTi is making 1.5°C the central ambition in our target setting framework. One year from today, targets with lower ambition will no longer be accepted. Companies with already approved targets will be encouraged to upgrade their targets as soon as possible, and to review them within five years of target approval as per the SBTi criteria.

Best-in-class technical governance

Science-based target setting has evolved from a nascent concept into a movement now covering nearly 20% of the global economy. During this period, the SBTi has also evolved from a nascent project, powered by the four founding organisations, towards the de facto standard embraced by the climate action ecosystem, including 1,500+ companies and hundreds of investors seeking to align their portfolios with global climate goals.

Acknowledging the globally recognised status the SBTi has achieved, we believe it is important to evolve our technical governance and decision-making processes to adhere to best-in-class models used by sustainability standards. We will therefore convene a standards board, that will operate with independence from the SBTi secretariat, and that will be the ultimate decision-making body for key technical components of our certification framework.

Through this new standards board, we will also seek to build alignment and minimise fragmentation, with other key climate action initiatives at the corporate and portfolio level.

A robust and agile secretariat

To support exponential growth in the adoption of science-based targets, the SBTi will invest in key components of our organisation and infrastructure to ensure a smooth and professional journey for companies going through the target setting process.

Much has been accomplished already in this regard. Since the introduction of our new target validation service in 2019, the SBTi has significantly reduced the timeframe for target validation. Today, the SBTi assesses company targets within 30 business days, or 60 business days for financial institutions. The level of approval has also significantly increased, from below 60% in 2018 to over 90% today.

We want to continue to strengthen and to professionalise our organisation to effectively serve our mission. As part of this, we will strengthen our leadership team with the appointment of a CEO. We will also continue to improve the user experience through investment in technology and in key functions within our team.

More detail on these changes can be found within our FAQ.

Accelerating global corporate climate action

We know science-based targets enable businesses to halt emissions and are a cornerstone in the race against climate change. That’s why we want thousands of companies across all sectors and geographies to set credible, science-based targets - to accelerate corporate climate action and enable us to achieve net-zero before 2050.

There’s no time to lose. To stand a fighting chance of winning the race and keeping warming to 1.5°C, we must immediately accelerate the adoption of science-based targets, globally.

To join us in the race to net-zero, get in touch today by emailing [email protected].