SBTi releases updates for well below 2°C and 1.5°C pathways

Yesterday the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) released updated criteria, resources and recommendations to align science-based targets (SBTs) with a well-below 2°C or 1.5°C pathway. The update reflects current developments in best practices and climate science drawing on the IPCC 1.5°C Special Report. We’ve drawn out the main points to help you figure out what this means for your climate strategy.

+ Criteria 4.0 and detailed process documents now available on SBTi’s website
+ New scope 1+2 targets shift from 2°C to well below 2°C or 1.5°C
+ Scope 3 targets stay at 2°C ambition level
+ Beginning October 2019, only well-below 2°C or 1.5°C targets will be accepted

> What exactly was released this week?

On April 17, SBTi released an important update that includes the following documents:

> I already have validated targets, does this update impact me?

No. Not right now. Your targets aligned with 2°C remain valid. What’s new is that SBTi will make public each company targets’ level of ambition (2°C, well below 2°C, or 1.5°C) on the SBTi website. Also, companies will need to have their targets reviewed every 5 years to make sure these are in line with the latest climate science. This means that by the end of 2024 at the latest, based on the current criteria, your updated targets will need to be aiming at well below 2°C.

> What’s new for targets on scopes 1+2?

Previously, SBTs needed to be aligned with a 2°C global warming scenario. In this new phase for SBTs, scopes 1+2 will need to align with a minimum threshold reaching well below 2°C (that’s 2.5% annual linear absolute reduction), and aim to reach 1.5°C (meaning 4.2% annual linear absolute reduction).

> What does well below 2°C actually mean? And how is it different from 2°C?

Well below 2 ̊C is a term drawn directly from the Paris Agreement that calls for a global commitment to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

Dipping into the science here: The scientific community tends to equate “well below 2°C” to the IPCC’s “likely chance” terminology, which means a 66% probability of keeping temperature rise below 2°C. (Dive deeper with this article by CICERO.) The bottom line? It’s a median estimated warming of 1.7°C.

Table 2. Minimum threshold ambition

> Have thresholds for scope 3 changed?

No. Scope 3 targets stay with an ambitious threshold of limiting global warming to 2°C or align with other ambition criteria such as suppliers engagement commitment outlined in C19 in the SBTi Criteria.

> If my scopes 1+2 target and scope 3 target have different thresholds, how can I combine my targets?

You can still combine targets under the new criteria. Here’s how this plays out:

  • If the combined scope 1+2+3 target is in line with a well below 2°C scenario, the scope 1+2 portion of the target must be in line with a well below 2°C scenario, regardless of the scope 3 portion ambition.
  • If the combined scope 1+2+3 target is not in line with a well below 2°C scenario. the scope 1+2 portion must be in line with a well below 2°C scenario and the scope 3 portion of the target has to meet the ambition requirements outlined in C19 in the SBTi Criteria.

> What new tools are available to help me set targets?

The newly released science-based target setting tool enables you to model setting science-based targets aligned with a well below 2°C and 1.5°C scenario using the absolute contraction approach, and a well-below 2°C scenario for the Sectorial Decarbonization Approach. For guidance on this process, contact Quantis Climate Strategy Lead Charlotte Bande.

> When does the 4.0 criteria come into effect?

You can use the new criteria today! The 3.0 criteria will be phasing out through October 15th, 2019. At that point, the SBTi will only accept targets that are aligned with the 4.0 criteria.

Looking to set off on your science-based targets journey? Quantis Climate Strategy Lead Charlotte Bande can take you there.

You’ll also like our recent webinar on the SBT process: >SET goals aligned with science + build your climate action plan.