CDP’s Alberto Carrillo Pineda explains why the Science Based Targets initiative is releasing new technical assistance to help its 500+ signatories decarbonise further and faster

The warning given by Sir David Attenborough at COP 24 in Katowice pulled no punches. Not only is climate change our greatest threat in thousands of years, the transition to a zero-carbon economy is “nowhere near where it needs to be”. His call echoed the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report that holding global temperature rise below 1.5C will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

As key actors in society, companies must take on the challenge to rapidly decarbonise the global economy. With operations and supply chains that stretch across the world, companies face myriad risks from a changing climate. Even 0.5C of warming could make all the difference, while holding warming to below 1.5C will mean a workforce less exposed to extreme weather, supply chains less at risk from flooding and a global economy that is more resilient. Climate science is a vital tool for companies looking to navigate those challenges and emerge on the front foot.

Companies choosing to set SBTs are reaping a plethora of benefits, including savings, innovation and strengthened brand reputation

Over 500 businesses are already seizing the opportunity to get ahead in the zero-carbon transition by committing to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Those companies are developing innovative new business strategies that are aligned with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature rise to below 2C. These are ambitious and far-reaching targets requiring, for example, companies to reduce emissions not only from their own operations, but also across their entire value chain.

Science-based targets are a bold move, but companies choosing to set them are already reaping a plethora of business benefits, including bottom-line savings, innovation, strengthened brand reputation, improved investor confidence and resilience against regulation.

The old adage that greening business models come at the expense of profits is quickly proving to be a false narrative. A YouGov survey last year of global corporations committed to the SBTi found that almost a third (29%) of firms are already seeing bottom-line savings, especially from increased use of clean energy.

Sony's new plastic, SORPLAS, is made up of 99% recycled material. (Credit: Hadrian/Shutterstock)

And not only is SBTi helping companies save money; it is also driving innovation, according to almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents to the same survey.

Take Kellogg’s. The company now has fuel-cell technology at a facility in San Jose, which generates electricity while making waffles, and Sony has developed a new plastic, SORPLAS, made up of 99% recycled material, which reduces CO2 emissions by nearly 80% during manufacture.

Companies that have committed to the SBTi also report a positive impact on both customer loyalty and investor confidence in their business.

And as more national governments begin to take action on the Paris Agreement by passing new regulations to lower emissions, firms with science-based targets will have future-proofed their business models against disruption.

In today’s world, there is no hiding from the impacts of climate change

It is not only regulation that science-based targets are protecting companies from. In today’s world, there is no hiding from the impacts of climate change, which are already bringing untold costs for the global economy.

From a Europe-wide heatwave, to record droughts in Cape Town, hurricanes in the Americas and wildfires in the Arctic, extreme weather cost businesses billions of dollars in 2018.

All of these impacts are occurring at just 1C of warming. Clearly, it’s in the interests of businesses to step up and prevent some of the devastating climate impacts we would see in a 2C world.

Wildfires across the globe in 2018 cost businesses billions of dollars. (Credit: Lumppini/Shutterstock)

As the IPCC special report warned, hitting the 2C threshold would see a doubling in the length of droughts, and cause global sea-levels to rise about 10 centimetres higher compared with 1.5C. This would put another 10 million people at risk of flooding, all the while reducing the ability to grow key crops.

With this urgent need to push towards a 1.5C world, this spring the SBTi will be releasing new technical resources – based on the emissions scenarios presented in the IPCC report – to enable companies to set targets in line with a 1.5C pathway.

We are also introducing important updates to our criteria, devised in consultation with a Scientific Advisory Group consisting of leading climate scientists from around the world, which are aimed at spurring greater ambition and keeping companies on a pathway towards net-zero.

Holding global warming below 1.5C will mean global CO2 emissions reaching net-zero by 2050

According to the IPCC, holding global warming below 1.5C will mean global CO2 emissions reaching net-zero by 2050, and renewables will need to provide at least 85% of global electricity by the same year.

It is an enormous challenge, but the corporations using climate science in their emissions reduction plans are not only reaping the business benefits, they are also signalling a “new normal” in the way business are developing their strategies for the future.

Companies now have the opportunity to aim higher than ever before by setting targets in line with a 1.5C world. We invite them to raise the bar and set the pace of change that the science tells us is needed. By ramping up efforts, these companies will help close the gap between where we are and where we need to be, while sending a clear signal to other companies, governments and institutions across the globe, that they too should be matching this ambition.

Alberto Carrillo Pineda is director of science-based targets and renewable energy at CDP, one of the Science Based Targets initiative partners

Main picture credit: Artfully Photographer/Shutterstock


This article is part the in-depth briefing Stepping iup to 1.5C. See also:

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CDP  IPCC  Science Based Targets Initiative  sustainable business  climate change 

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