The G20’s approach to decarbonization must be science-based

23rd Sep 2021

There is growing momentum of companies and countries talking the talk when it comes to climate action. But words will not prevent further damage to the climate - we must walk the walk.

The release of our ‘Taking the Temperature’ report in June showed that no major G7 country aligned with even a 2°C pathway, let alone the 1.5°C limit we need to protect our natural systems from irreversible climate catastrophe.

Now, our new research released during Climate Week NYC and one month ahead of the G20 Summit shows that more than 4,200 companies across the G20 have set climate targets, but just 20% are science-based.

It is clear that there is a strong global appetite for decarbonization. But setting self-defined emissions reductions targets won’t cut it - company targets must be rooted in science.

G7 must lead the way

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in August was humanity’s final wake-up call. We are facing the very real possibility that global temperatures will rise over the 1.5°C limit that science has determined will cause climate catastrophe. This could happen as early as 2040. The world cannot afford to waste time on lacklustre climate action.

Since the G7 Summit in June, the uptake of corporate science-based targets has risen by 28%. Despite this, the G7 Index temperature scores have not changed due to a lack of engagement from a handful of the heaviest emitters.

Within all G7 corporate indexes, only 10% of companies are responsible for at least 48% of total index emissions. G7 countries have a global responsibility to rapidly slash emissions and world leaders must incentivize this process.

It is crucial that all industries and sectors step up climate action and respond to what the science is clearly telling us: if we are to ensure the future of humanity on this planet, we must all take urgent steps to halve global emissions within this decade and reach net-zero before 2050.

In the G13 (non-G7 members of the G20) - 1,216 companies have disclosed climate targets, with just 6% being science-based. Indonesia, Russia and Saudi Arabia - some of the world’s heaviest emitters in the G13 - have zero companies with approved science-based targets.

Over the past five years, science-based targets cut corporate emissions by a quarter. If this continues at the same pace, SBTi companies are on track to halve emissions between 2020 and 2030 on average, exactly the pace required by climate science. These are proven results - if we are to secure our future, companies in all countries must follow the science and rapidly cut emissions.

COP26 and G20 - unmissable opportunities to turn the tide

There is still a long journey ahead, and we can only succeed if there is sustained support from world leaders.

The G20 Summit in October and COP26 in November represent crucial milestones on the road towards 1.5°C, and are unmissable opportunities for governments to secure a net-zero future for humanity. Time is running out, and these events are vital in ensuring the goals of the Paris Agreement remain in reach.

If we are to halve global emissions in the next eight years, G7 leaders must fully and urgently commit to decarbonization through robust science-based targets, and encourage G13 nations to follow suit. We need short-term robust action with long-term vision.

Turning up the heat on climate ambition

Companies and financial institutions have the power to drive real and lasting change for this planet through science-based targets. The private sector can harness climate ambition to drive government policy that reinforces decarbonization. And, by engaging with suppliers, companies can reduce emissions through their value chains - creating a domino effect in all sectors of the economy.

There is a mountain to climb. We must reach new heights of climate ambition and ultimately reach the net-zero summit. To do this, we need the courage to act now and take that first step.

Companies are encouraged to join the 750 companies already signed up to the SBTi’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign to make their critical contribution to limiting the worst impacts of climate change ahead of the COP26 conference in Glasgow.

We would like to invite you to join us for our online event at 9am ET on 23 September 2021, discussing the implications of our latest research.

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