What should you remember from the recent “Science-based targets 2021 progress report” beyond its headlines?
Not approved yet? Get ready
With the number of committing companies exponentially growing, longer validation times and/or stricter application of the criteria should be expected. In most cases, key principles such as the ‘absolute contraction’ must be clearly followed since there is no case-by-case analysis of companies’ specific context any more (except for the most recent sectoral guidance such as aviation or net-zero for finance).
Thus, good preparation is now, more than ever required. To minimize validation risks and costs, companies need to have a robust carbon footprint (GHG Protocol compliant, without unjustified exclusion of Scope 3 emissions source) and a clear understanding of the targets criteria to apply but also a real management support of the SBT challenge.
Committing to a 1.5°C trajectory (and a fortiori the net-zero one) is nothing but anecdotical. This goes beyond the easy no-regret actions and requires engaging other stakeholders (suppliers, clients, subcontractors…) which requires a good action plan and appropriate resources (technical, financial, human).
With a ‘critical mass’ reached, the science-based targets are now progressively trickling throughout value chains down to sectors which used to be out of focus of climate policies (e.g. semi-finished products industry). This is already visible through suppliers engagement programs or financial institutions tackling their financed emissions. After some pioneering time, now comes the risk of lagging behind the SBT-train…
Your targets are approved: now what?
The science-based targets are evolving, challenged by legitimate criticism about the increasing risk of greenwashing. Companies should continuously anticipate these changes. With the growing number and variety of climate claims, NGO’s have pinpointed frequent inconsistencies and weaknesses of these claims, some of them being related to the Science-based targets. Though a few technical criticisms were in our opinion less relevant (e.g. choice of the base year, Scope 3 coverage…), others are definitely essential to highlight, like the role of offset in net-zero strategies.
One area of expected improvement is the monitoring and verification of progress towards the targets. Companies will have to transparently disclose their emissions reduction and justify any deviation from their planned trajectory. They also need to establish contingency plans against such deviation.
Reaching the targets should remain the priority of any engaged company. From our experience at @Climact, this always represents the main challenge, whether you are a large company or an SME. Large companies need to implement deep changes in their company culture to align each process and entity with the SBT trajectory. SME’s are facing specific barriers to reduce their emissions (e.g. as a tenant you may not have any control nor influence on the office HVAC or electricity supply).
The one question a company should ask herself to know whether she’s doing good on climate is unchanged: “Are my absolute full-scope emissions sufficiently decreasing each year?”
Obviously, climate science-based targets are not everything. Other climate challenges (e.g. adaptation, climate risks assessment) and ESG sustainability dimensions must urgently be addressed. 1.5°C compatible climate targets however remain absolutely necessary to anticipate risks and opportunities for any company.Share