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Why Science-Based Targets Are Necessary For Meeting Paris Climate Agreement Goals

By 3p Contributor

By Tobias Schultz

More than 190 countries have formally signed the Paris Climate Agreement since it was introduced in December 2015. Many have since unveiled plans regarding how they will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The problem? Collectively, the proposed GHG reductions won’t achieve the Paris agreement’s goal of holding global mean temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. Instead, we are on track to see an increase of almost 4 degrees Celsius by 2100.

Beyond the obvious moral imperative to preserve our planet for present and future generations, your company’s suppliers and customers -- not to mention your own operations -- can and will be affected in many ways by a changing climate. Global warming means a world of ever-increasing uncertainty across supply chains, as rising sea levels, drought and other climate-related circumstances threaten to disrupt manufacturing and especially agriculture.

Consider the effect of current drought conditions in California, where farmers must either spend more for water or allow a portion of their acreage to go fallow. One choice pinches the farmers’ pocketbook; the other directly disrupts purchaser supply chains. Or, if you’re a manufacturer active in a country like China, expert predictions of increasing severe weather incidents ahead likewise will wreak havoc on your supply chains.

How can we craft mitigation policies to tackle problems of such enormity?

Fortunately, climate scientists provided a thorough, credible roadmap published in reports prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Each lays out the level of emissions reductions necessary to stabilize the climate below the +2C target.

One group of businesses has already begun this process by introducing the Science Based Targets initiative (SBT). These companies publicly committed to reduction targets in line with the +2C pathway.

If you’re looking to set a science-based target for your own company, it must align with 50 percent reductions in both CO2 and methane emissions, plus an 80 percent decrease of black carbon, by 2035. Based on the nature of your business, you may want to take more aggressive steps toward sector-specific targets. For example, power generators including public utilities bear a greater burden for reducing CO2 emissions, while the agriculture industry must meet significantly higher methane reduction targets.

These efforts present challenges as well as opportunities. My next post with dive into the details of setting up SBTs for your company, with an overview of Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. My concluding post will explain why integrating emissions reduction targets for short-lived climate pollutants is essential to establishing the credibility of your corporate sustainability platform. Check back to TriplePundit next week for the second installment.

Image credit: Pexels

Tobias Schultz is Manager of Corporate Sustainability Services for SCS Global Services, where he designs and implements corporate sustainability programs for clients, including the development of quantitative life cycle assessments (LCAs) and the analysis of the environmental performance of global supply chains. SCS is a worldwide leader in independent, third-party environmental certification.

Schultz can be reached at tschultz@scsglobalservices.com

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