The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), one of the key organizations focused on aligning corporate environmental sustainability action with the global goals of limiting climate change, announced the results of a research study indicating that while companies are increasingly setting climate targets, the vast majority fail to align with climate science.

The research, outlined in the newly published report, “Taking the Temperature: Assessing and scaling-up climate ambition in the G20 business sector,” found that of the more than 4,200 companies in the G20 that have set climate targets, only 20% are science-based. Results were slightly better in G7 countries, where 25% of targets were science-based, with only 6% of G13 (G20 countries outside of the G7) reaching this benchmark. The report found that several G20 countries did not have any companies with science-based targets, including Argentina, Indonesia, South Korea, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

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The UK was the best-performing country based on this metric, at 41%, followed by France at 33%. Encouragingly, the report indicated a 27% increase in uptake of science-based targets in G20 companies between June-August 2021.

Alberto Carrillo Pineda, Managing Director and Co-Founder of the SBTi, said:

“Our G7 world leaders must introduce ambitious national commitments, and other measures, that incentivize companies to set robust decarbonisation targets while encouraging “G13” nations to follow suit. These milestone G20 and COP26 events are vital opportunities for all companies and governments to adequately respond to climate science and drive real corporate climate action around the world.”

Founded in 2015, SBTi was formed as a collaboration between CDP, World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), with the goal to establish science-based environmental target setting as a standard corporate practice. Following the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5°C in 2018, highlighting the impacts of 1.5°C warming and calling for a strengthened global response, SBTi raised the minimum ambition of its approval framework from 2°C to well-below 2°C, and launched the Business Ambition for 1.5°C, a campaign aimed at accelerating 1.5°C target setting.

Earlier this year, SBTi tightened its criteria for approved climate targets, announcing that it will soon only accept targets aligned with its 1.5°C warming ambition, as required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.     

The research follows the release of an IPCC report last month that found that the world was on track for a temperature rise above the 1.5°C target set at the Paris Agreement – a level seen as necessary to avoid some of the direst impacts of climate change – by as soon as 2040, although rapid and meaningful action could still limit warming to 1.5°C.

Lila Karbassi, Chief of Programmes, UN Global Compact and SBTi Board Chair, said:

“Last month’s IPCC report was ‘code red’ for humanity. Urgent climate action must now be a top priority for those in power. Science-based targets are proven to cut corporate emissions at the pace and scale required – they are a vital part of the puzzle for governments and companies worldwide. Ahead of the G20 Summit and COP26, our world leaders must put their full support behind science-based targets as an effective way to slash emissions.”

Click here to access the SBTi report.