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The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) is a UN-backed program that evaluates and approves net-zero transition plans that align with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C warming limit. So far, over 6000 companies submitted plans to SBTi and roughly 4000 have been approved. However, many of those plans lost approval and were delisted by SBTi in recent years. Companies are realizing the difficult reality of emissions reduction and many companies that originally made aggressive goals didn’t fully understand the challenges of reducing scope 3 emissions. A recent article from Eco-Business discusses this trend stating:

“The SBTi requires companies to set a Scope 3 target if their Scope 3 emissions represent more than 40 per cent of their overall emissions. According to carbon accounting firm Terrascope, Scope 3 emissions represent about 85 per cent of an organisation’s emissions footprint on average.

‘Companies are realising that they can reduce Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, but reducing Scope 3 is a lot harder,’ Newman told Eco-Business. Some firms have been overly ambitious and have had to push back their targets after realising how complex the process is, he added.”

The article states that many firms in non-emissions-intensive fields like tech and healthcare are struggling because they initially set ambitious targets without much knowledge of carbon emissions. Additionally, many leading tech companies made meaningful reductions early on and SBTi does not allow those companies to get credit for those early actions. On the other hand, more carbon-intensive industries shied away from setting bold targets because they more fully understood the difficulties associated with emissions reductions.

While some accuse SBTi of being too stringent, I believe this is shooting the messenger. Reducing emissions is difficult, and to limit global warming to 1.5°C companies may have to take drastic and costly action. Under that scenario, global GHG emissions should peak in 2025 and then decline 43 percent by 2030. Those considering SBTi goals should be realistic and careful not to overpromise, while also recognizing the necessity of emissions reduction.

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile