Explained byWBCSD

Science Based Targets Initiative

The “Science Based Targets initiative" (SBTi) is a collaboration between four NGOs: CDP, UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute, and WWF. The initiative aims to ensure that emission reduction targets set by companies are consistent with the pace recommended by scientists to limit significant impacts of climate change, as opposed to arbitrary targets. The SBTi also provides guidance and promotes best practices to reduce corporate GHG emissions to enable companies to set ambitious and meaningful targets.

SBTI reviews targets proposed by companies and validates if the target put the company on track to support varying levels of global warming as outlined in the Paris Agreement (e.g 1.5°C, well-below 2°C). To date, more than 3,000 business and financial institutions have worked with SBTi to reduce their emissions in line with climate science.

“A carbon emission target is defined as science-based if it is consistent with the level of decarbonization that, according to climate science, is required to keep global temperature increase within well-below 2°C, and ideally 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels”

SBTI now has short-term and long-term science based targets to help companies commit to near-term action while also indicating how they will reach net zero before 2050.

Short-term science based targets

Short-term targets were previously known as ‘science-based targets’ but have since been re-branded as short-term science-based targets. Their timeframe has been reduced to 5-10 years from the date of submission (vs 5-15 years). To achieve a SBTi validated ambition, science-based targets for Scope 1 and 2 SBTi targets must show your organization’s pathway to 1.5°C, while targets for Scope 3 emissions must show your organization is on track to support 1.5°C or well below 2°C levels of warming.

Long-term science based targets

Long-term science based targets are meant to standardize company targets for net zero ambitions. SBTi defines net zero as having reduced emissions in line with a long-term science-based target (effectively having achieved residual emissions), plus neutralizing residual emissions through permanent carbon removals (e.g. carbon removal credits).

For most companies, long-term targets will be equivalent to at least a 90% absolute reduction across scopes.

The target year should be no later than 2050 (2040 for power sector); however, long-term SBTs are (e.g. reduce at minimum x% annually) informed by an ambition for overall emissions reduction or convergence intensity.

Finally, the target boundary for long-term targets is higher than for short-term targets.

SBTi guidance for SMEs

SBTI has a simplified, more accessible route for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), defined as having fewer than 500 employees and a non-subsidiary.

In setting a science based target, SMEs can:

  • By-pass the commit and target validation phase

  • Start by setting a science-based target for their Scope 1 and 2 emissions through a pre-defined target option

  • Do not have to set short-term targets for their Scope 3 emissions, though must commit to measure and reduce them

  • Benefit from automatic target approval and posting through the SBTi website pending due diligence review and payment

More guidance for SMEs can be found through SBTi here.