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24 October 2018 Chloe Brigden

Businesses have a critical role to play in the transition to a low-carbon economy by reducing greenhouse gases (GHG’s) emissions while maintaining economic growth.

While 80% of the 500 largest listed companies in the world have adopted GHG emissions reduction targets, most are short-term and incremental, falling short of the emissions reductions required to prevent the worst climate change impacts.

WSP has developed a guide for companies to set emissions reduction targets based on climate science whilst taking responsibility for their share of the emissions reductions required to mitigate climate change

What are science-based targets? 

At the organisation level, science-based targets reflect the company’s share of required global emissions reductions.

Climate concerns were heightened upon the IPCC’s released global warning this month; affirming that we have little over a decade to take action towards climate change before we experience major consequences such as drought, floods, fires, storm surges and increased global warming. The targets outlined in the Science-Based Target Guide is in-line with the level of decarbonisation required to keep a global temperature below the critical 1.5C perimeter. Although the IPCC report is sobering, it is totally achievable to keep the world to 1.5. Degree warming by using current technologies. 

Companies have conventionally set GHG emissions reduction targets based on regulatory requirements, past performance, peer performance, and/or in response to guidance from industry-specific benchmarks. Often, these targets align with levels of performance that seem conservative and reasonably achievable, irrespective of whether the resulting GHG emissions reductions will limit mitigate contributions to climate change impacts.

Some of the long-term opportunities that science-based targets create include, development in technological and operational processes, profitability and new revenue streams, reputation-based opportunities and higher risk resilience. 

In contrast, science-based targets start from the premise that global emitters must limit emissions within a certain cumulative threshold to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Science-based targets are defined based on a share of the global emissions limit allocated to companies based on factors such as the company’s economic productivity, carbon intensity, or a combination of both.

How it works

A variety of methodologies exist to help companies set emissions reductions targets based on climate science. These methodologies differ both in their complexity and the stringency of their requirements. 

Detailed in our Science-Based Targets Guide, are the 4 steps:

  • Gather Information
  • Set Targets
  • Commit and Report
  • Review

Download the guide below for further information into the methology and steps required to successfull set science-based targets.