SBTi Scales up to Help Firms Heed IPCC Warning

Initiative responds to biggest ever year for science-based target commitments by strengthening framework and expanding team. 

The Science-based Targets initiative (SBTi) believes its role is more important than ever in delivering the “monumental reductions” in emissions needed to heed the “final warning” made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) AR6 Synthesis report.   

During the initiative’s technical update webinar, CEO Dr Luiz Fernando do Amaral said that “only immediate, large-scale action can avert climate breakdown” and warned that the ”window to keep the 1.5°C temperature goal, and avoid more catastrophic impacts is nearly shut”.  

The SBTi defines and promotes best practice in emissions reductions and net zero targets, as well as providing technical assistance and expert resources to companies which set science-based targets in line with the latest climate science.  

SBTi’s work is vital to enable a “stable future for the next generation”, said do Amaral, adding that organisations with validated science-based targets have proven that “monumental reductions are possible”. 

Maria Outters, Chief Impact Officer at the SBTi, said that the IPCC report made it “clear with every day that passes, the chance of keeping under 1.5°C diminishes”.  

Last year, the SBTi tightened its emissions reduction frameworks, having previously accredited strategies aligned to a 2°C rise in global temperatures. 

Growing demand for target validation

Currently, 4,763 companies and financial institutions have committed to developing science-based targets, with 2,430 firms with targets validated by the SBTi.  

More financial institutions had their targets validated in 2022 than the previous six years combined, with science-based targets quintupling in 2022, with nearly a quarter (23%) of Fortune 500 companies having targets validated by the end of last year.  

Alberto Carillo Pineda, Chief Technical Officer at the SBTi, noted that there had been an “influx of financial institutions setting science-based targets” including NatWest Group, Schroders, and Eurazeo.  

There are now almost 200 companies with science-based targets validated in line with the SBTi’s highest level of ambition – the net zero standard – including AstraZeneca, Bloomberg, MSCI, and Sony.  

The amount of emissions covered by the initiative’s science-based commitments and targets reached three giga tonnes (Gt), representing roughly 15% of Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (indirect) emissions of listed companies globally. Additionally, 96% of SBTi targets to date, and 98% of the targets validated in 2023, include Scope 3 emissions.  

Nearly a quarter (24%) SBTi-companies are now from Asia, with the initiative’s CEO noting the “impressive growth” in the region. Commitments in China more than doubled from 39 in 2021 to 87 last year, with validated targets more than trebling to 51 in total.  

He also highlighted that the SBTi has “improved” its target validation service to increase the volume of monthly validations by 78% in response to “soaring demand”. 

The SBTi has recently launched target-setting guidance and tools for the forest, land and agriculture (FLAG), cement, and maritime sectors, which collectively account for 30% of global emissions.  

The SBTi is developing sector-specific guidance, focusing on 14 high emitting sectors – aluminium, apparel and footwear, aviation, buildings, chemicals, cement, financial services, FLAG, information communication and technology, maritime, oil and gas, power, steel, and transport – that account for a combined 90% of global emissions. 

Across sectors and markets

SBTi’s Outters said that the initiative’s impact team will be focused on enabling companies in the high emitting sectors, as well as those in the global south, to set science-based targets.  

It will also look to develop additional partnerships to “amplify” its reach and ensure that as many companies and financial institutions as possible “start on the target-setting journey”. 

According to Pineda Carillo, the initiative is looking to expand the coverage of its resources to facilitate the adoption of science-based targets across the entire economy. It also will continue to “push the envelope” of knowledge and best practice in climate targets setting and implementation, while strengthening its technical governance and technical decision-making processes. 

He confirmed that next quarter the SBTi will be publishing its new standard-setting protocols, as well as its work programme from 2023 to 2025 – the first time the initiative has shared plans to “such a level of detail”.  

“We are also making strong progress across other sectors including oil and gas, steel, buildings, and we are also planning to start revision of our target setting items for the transport and power sectors,” he said. 

“The oil and gas sector is both one of the most important and challenging sectors to decarbonise,” he added. “Fossil fuels represent the largest source of emissions, and therefore having a robust standard for science-based customisation for the sector is critical.” 

The SBTi will publish a first consultation towards the end of this year for the oil and gas sector, as well as currently working to develop and launch next year’s standards for financial institutions, which Pineda Carillo said will be a “game changer for the sector”. 

Team expansion 

The SBTi doubled the size of its team in 2022, taking its total number of employees to approximately 100 worldwide, with the initiative is looking to acquire new expertise and skills. 

It announced Anita Sheth as its new Compliance Director and implemented the new compliance policy which its CEO said will further strengthen the SBTI’s framework.  

The SBTi is also aiming to increase the transparency and accountability of its corporate climate action by enabling the disclosure of progress and the assessment of delivery against targets in a clear, robust and standardised way. This includes completing its transition towards a technical governance model that includes the setup of the technical council – the first 15 members of which have now been confirmed.  

The initiative has also started the process to reforming its technical advisory group, with plans to do the same for its scientific advisory group. 

Outters was appointed as the SBTi’s first Chief Impact Officer in January 2023, while Paul Simpson joined as a strategic advisor in February.  

The SBTi is a partnership between the global non-profit CDP, the UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). 

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