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Following the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C released last October, the sustainability community has been waiting to find out what this means for science-based targets. Up until now, a science-based target has been defined as one that aligns to the commitment of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to 2°C or below. However, the report from the scientific community painted a bleak picture of the impacts of warming above 1.5 degrees (celsius), demonstrating clearly, and with urgency, that the level of ambition needs to be raised.
This week the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) published their official response. This year will see major updates to the SBT guidelines which will align with the latest science of the IPCC and the most ambitious target of the Paris Agreement: to limit warming to 1.5°C or well below 2°C.
New validation criteria will be published in April this year and will come into force in October. What does this mean for businesses that have already set targets and for those considering setting one in the coming future? We now have a clearer picture.
Businesses with an existing SBT
In October 2019, the SBTi will make public on their website the level of ambition of all existing approved targets (i.e. 1.5°C, well-below 2°C and 2°C). Companies will be notified of their ambition level in April, several months prior to it being published.
From October, targets will only be accredited by the SBTi if aligned to 1.5°C or well-below 2°C scenarios. A well-below 2°C target is as yet not definitively outlined but although it is not as ambitious as 1.5°C, it is expected to be a significant step up from a 2°C target.
The SBTi have been clear that targets should continue to remain aligned to the most recent climate science, and therefore, existing (and future) targets will now be subject to review every 5 years. This will be mandatory from 2025.
So if you had your target approved in July 2018 at 2°C, a review should be undertaken by 2023, but must be reviewed in 2025. In review, the target must be revised to align to the latest SBTi criteria at this time.
Businesses looking to set an SBT
From October 2019 any new targets submitted will only be accepted if they are consistent with 1.5°C or well-below 2°C scenarios. If approved by the SBTi, the level of ambition will be made public on their website.
Companies must review their submission every 5 years in order to remain aligned to the latest science and revalidate if necessary.
Companies can still submit 2°C targets (current validation criteria) up until October 2019. However, please be mindful that this target will be subject to recalculation in 2025 in order to align to the most up-to-date climate science, which at present is a 1.5°C or well-below 2°C scenario.
If you have any questions about the impending changes or how to set a science-based target, please get in touch and ask for our SBT experts.
Louisa O’Connell, Consultant Laurie Edwards, Consultant William Theisen, CEO North America