Targets: what do they mean to your business?

6th May 2015

As we count down to the highly anticipated UN climate talks in Paris this December, countries, states and businesses have been paving the way for a deal by putting forward targets for how they will tackle climate change. The state of California, the world’s eighth-largest economy, is the latest to announce its goal: to cut 40% of its emissions from 1990 levels by 2030.

Given the focus on greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets this year, you’d be forgiven for thinking that such target setting is new. For big business it is arguably the norm. Over 80% of the world’s 500 largest companies report having some kind of emission reduction target in place last year. Yet despite this, the world is still on track to greatly overshoot the 2°C average temperature limit at which we know we can best avoid the most dangerous and unknown impacts of climate change.

So where does this leave businesses? Given that so many companies know climate change poses a risk that must be acted on now, why aren’t more adjusting their emissions targets to reflect what climate science tells us is necessary?

The answers to this are complex, and vary from business to business, and sector to sector. We can learn a great deal from some of the corporate leaders who have attempted to make headway in this field, such as software company Autodesk or Italian utility firm ENEL. These companies have triggered a very important conversation that many in the corporate world are beginning to have: namely, how do they set ambitious and meaningful emissions reduction targets that benefit their bottom line and the environment?

Given the lack of knowledge and resources in this area, four global organizations have come together to help facilitate the dialogue with and between companies on the critical and under-addressed issue of GHG target setting. The Science Based Targets initiative, a partnership between CDP, United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and WWF, have produced a new methodology that will enable companies to establish targets that are in line with the 2°C goal, but also take into account the economic realities of operating in their sector. A business operating in the materials sector will have different targets to one operating in a less energy-intensive field like finance for example.

We will be launching this methodology in Paris on May 20th at the Business and Climate Summit, where business leaders will be coming together to adopt and discuss forward looking strategies to scale up the solutions to climate change. If you want to find out more, join us by registering here.

Pedro Faria is Technical Director at CDP. He oversees the development of CDP’s disclosure platform, scoring systems and data.

Register to find out why businesses should be aligning their goals with climate science at the Business and Climate Summit in Paris.