The imperative for raising ambition

20th Feb 2019

Building on the IPCC’s 1.5°C report, the Science Based Targets initiative is introducing new technical resources to enable companies to set emissions reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement’s highest level of ambition.

Holding global temperature rise below 1.5°C will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

That was the clear message of the landmark Special Report on 1.5°C from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in October last year.

In practice, this ‘far-reaching’ transformation equates to the complete and rapid decarbonization of the global economy.

The next decade is critical. The IPCC warns that emissions need to halve by 2030, and drop to net-zero by the middle of the century for the best chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

Failing to take this urgent action will see millions more people in poverty, and untold negative impacts for our shared prosperity, ecosystems and the global economy.

Yet the world is currently off track.

The UN Environment Programme warns that government commitments under the Paris Agreement need to increase five-fold to give us a chance of limiting warming to below 1.5°C. Meanwhile, after a three year plateau from 2014-16, emissions are once again on the rise, with early estimates showing that emissions jumped to a record high in 2018.

There is an urgent need to step up ambition.

Nowhere is this more understood than in the business world where the impacts of climate change are already being keenly felt.

With operations, and supply chains that stretch across the world, companies understand that even 0.5°C of warming could make all the difference, and that holding warming to below 1.5°C will mean a workforce less exposed to heatwaves, supply chains less at risk from flooding and a global economy that is more resilient, compared to 2°C or higher warming.

Faced with the clear scientific evidence, these companies understand that the challenge ahead pales in comparison to the risks of inaction, and to the economic opportunities and other co-benefits that await those providing the solutions.

And across the world, businesses have already shown they are ready and willing to lead.

More than 500 companies have already chosen to develop business strategies that are aligned with the goal of limiting temperature rise to 2°C.

These companies have signalled the emergence of a new normal in the way businesses are developing their strategies for the future. And now in the light of the latest science we expect – and hope – to see many companies aspiring to meet and exceed this challenge.

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) strives to use the most up-to-date science to help companies align their business strategies with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The IPCC is considered an authority on climate science. Its 1.5°C report pushed the boundaries of climate science, shedding light on a new body of research that explores global emission trajectories compatible with keeping warming at 1.5°C and well-below 2°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

It represents the most up-to-date science, and was the first major update to climate science since the release of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in 2014, which, along with Energy Technology Perspectives developed by the International Energy Agency, provided the foundation for the SBTi’s target setting methods to date.

The SBTi will be building on this new body of scientific knowledge, introducing new technical resources to enable companies to set emission reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement’s highest level of ambition. These resources will be available from April.

With the SBTi’s overarching aim of building mainstream momentum towards Paris-compliant climate targets, companies will be asked to set, at the minimum, targets that are compatible with the goal of keeping warming well-below 2°C. However, acknowledging the risks involved in exceeding 1.5°C of warming, we will be urging companies to aim for the most ambitious target possible.

In order to incentivize a race to the top, and with the aim of driving maximum transparency, the level of ambition (e.g. 2°C targets, well-below 2°C targets or 1.5°C targets) of new and existing targets approved by the SBTi will be made publicly available from October 2019.

To ensure targets remain aligned with the most recent climate science, we will also be asking companies to review, and if necessary revalidate, their targets every five years from the date of the original target approval. This will become mandatory in 2025, however we encourage companies to review their targets as soon as possible.

The IPCC’s report is a stark reminder of the immense stakes involved in a changing climate, and the dramatic scale and pace of the transition required.

Companies have a vital role to play in this goal.

By ramping up efforts, these companies will help close the gap between where we are and where we need to be, while also sending a positive signal to other companies, governments and institutions across the globe, that they too should be matching this ambition.

For more information see our press release.