With science-based targets, companies can set short- and medium-term greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets that are consistent with Paris-aligned pathways — but what about targets that go further?

PUBLICATION ALERT: Foundations for net-zero target-setting in the corporate sector

We’ve launched a process to develop the first science-based global standard for corporate net-zero targets, to ensure that companies’ net-zero targets translate into action that is consistent with achieving a net-zero world by no later than 2050.

Our new paper lays out the conceptual foundations for credible, science-based net-zero targets for the corporate sector:

Net zero: a north star for climate action

According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, the world must halve CO2 emissions by around 2030 and reach net-zero CO2 emissions by mid-century.

Recognizing the importance of keeping global warming to 1.5°C, companies are increasingly adopting net-zero climate targets. Between July 2019 and June 2020 nearly 300 companies committed to reach net-zero emissions as part of the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign, an urgent call-to-action for companies to set emissions reduction targets in line with a 1.5°C future. The campaign is led by the SBTi and backed by a global coalition of UN leaders, business organizations and NGOs.

Learn about the corporate leaders committing to a 1.5°C future

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Science-based net-zero targets for companies

At the global level, the IPCC provides a clear definition of net zero: Net-zero emissions are reached when anthropogenic (i.e., human-caused) emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere are balanced by anthropogenic removals over a specified period.

Within the corporate context, however, the definition is not so clear, leading to significant confusion and inconsistent claims. Without a common science-based definition of what constitutes a “net-zero” target, companies and their stakeholders can’t be sure that their long-term climate targets are credible or ambitious enough.

In 2019, the SBTi initiated an inclusive, stakeholder-informed process to develop a framework to enable companies to set robust and credible net-zero targets in line with a 1.5°C future. The framework will include net-zero target validation criteria, allowing companies to have their net-zero targets validated by the SBTi, as well as user friendly guidance for setting net-zero targets.



The SBTi began its process to develop a framework for science-based Net Zero targets in September 2019 and has since extensively consulted companies and other relevant stakeholders.

Following on from the publication of the ‘Foundations of science-based Net Zero targets’ paper in September 2020, the SBTi is in the process of developing detailed criteria and guidance. Please see below for the latest timeline for this process.

Development Process

The framework is being developed through a balanced, transparent, and inclusive stakeholder process, including consultations with the SBTi’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Groups, a dedicated Net Zero Expert Advisory Group, as well as a Stakeholder Consultative Group.

Decisions will be developed through building consensus and all outputs will be subject to comprehensive and rigorous reviews by stakeholders. The SBTi will make every effort to reach consensus within the Expert Advisory Group. If consensus cannot be reached on aspects of the framework, the SBTi retains the authority to make a final decision.

To join our Net Zero Stakeholder Consultative Group, please sign up here.

  • Business Ambition for 1.5°C: Guidelines and Frequently Asked Questions
  • Towards a Science-Based Approach to Climate Neutrality in the Corporate Sector by the Science Based Targets initiative and CDP (September 2019) 
  • Global Warming of 1.5°C by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (October 2018)
  • Principles to guide investment towards a stable climate by Millar, R.J., Hepburn, C., Beddington, J. et al. (January 2018)
  • Paper
  • Executive Summary
  • Blog post on net-zero
  • Launch webinar recording
  • Launch webinar slides


For inquiries related to the technical development of the framework, please contact John Sottong, Senior Associate, WRI. 

For inquiries related to the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign, please contact Tom Dowdall, 1.5°C Campaign Lead, CDP.