How to Set Science-based Climate Targets

Oct 26, 2023

Science-based targets (SBTs) are a set of environmental goals that companies can commit to in order to align with the latest scientific understanding of what is necessary to mitigate climate change and its impacts. SBTs are designed to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a way that is consistent with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with an aim to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Science-SBTs are scientifically founded (based on the best available climate science and data, and developed in alignment with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other leading climate research institutions) and ambitious (they should reflect a company's commitment to making meaningful contributions to mitigating climate change and hence typically involve a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to baseline years). SBTs encompass a company's entire value chain, including direct emissions (Scope 1) and indirect emissions from purchased electricity and heat (Scope 2), as well as emissions throughout the supply chain (Scope 3).

SBTs take into account sector specifics (different industries may have different challenges and opportunities when it comes to reducing emissions) and they are time-bound, i.e. typically set for a future date, such as 2030 or 2050. Last but not least - SBTs are independently assessed and validated by organizations such as the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). This validation ensures that the targets are truly science-based and in line with the Paris Agreement.

Steps for setting SBTs

The step-by-step process by SBTi can be found here.

In a nutshell, this is what you need to do:

  1. Commit

As an SME, you need to submit the standard commitment letter. Once committed, your company has 24 months to submit its targets to the SBTi. 

  1. Develop a target or targets

The target or targets need to be in line with science-based criteria.

  1. Submit your target validation

Here's the streamlined route for SMEs.

  1. Communicate

Once confirmed, announce your target(s) and inform your stakeholders

  1. Disclose your progress

Following approval, you should disclose your company's emissions annually and monitor progress on reaching your target.