Science-Based TargetsThe Science-Based Targets initiative is a coalition of 885 companies to date that have set goals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The overarching goal of the initiative is to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement’s established standard of limiting temperature rise to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The initiative lays out guidelines and strategies for companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Companies can accomplish this while producing transparent reports on their current emission levels. The purpose of this is to increase the companies’ credibility and public reputation. A team of experts reviews and approves each company’s proposed strategy to ensure that the strategy is effective and efficient. The initiative is led by a group of NGOs who work to reduce emissions: the CPD, the UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund. Some notable American companies taking part in the initiative include Walmart, Unilever and Coca-Cola. However, companies from countries across the globe are taking part.

Setting Science-Based Targets not only benefits the environment through reduced greenhouse gas emissions, but it also benefits each company internally. The initiative conducted a series of polls of company executives to quantify how setting a Science-Based Target benefits their companies. The poll found that 63% of the executives said that Science-Based Targets drive innovation. This is because companies must find greener, more eco-friendly ways to conduct business to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, 52% of the executives found that establishing Science-Based Targets has improved investor confidence. Many investors choose to assess a company based on its environmental friendliness. Therefore, partnering with the Science-Based Targets initiative gives companies credibility and a good reputation in these terms.

How Will the Science-Based Targets Initiative Mitigate Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

The Science-Based Targets initiative describes three approaches companies can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

  1. A Sector-based Approach: Every sector in the economy receives a carbon emissions budget. If the companies are in excess of the budget, then they are tasked to find a way to reduce their emissions.
  2. An Absolute-based Approach: The initiative sets a blanket percent reduction in carbon emissions for all companies globally. Those companies would have to reduce their emissions by that specified amount.
  3. An Economic-based Approach: Each company’s gross profit is a share of global gross domestic product. Each company must reduce its carbon emissions proportional to the size of its share.

No matter the approach, the goal of each method is to reduce a company’s carbon emissions, with the overarching goal of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Carbon dioxide contributes to the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is the increase in the Earth’s global temperature caused by greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide, water vapor and methane) trapping solar radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere. Some solar radiation is reflected back into space, but other radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases and reradiated back to Earth. In 2018, carbon dioxide accounted for 81% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing carbon emissions reduces the greenhouse effect, preventing Earth’s temperature from sharply increasing.

How Does Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions Help the World’s Poor?

Natural disasters, such as flooding and drought, disproportionately affect the world’s poor. Millions living in poverty are farmers, and weather changes easily affect agriculture. The livelihood of these farmers depends on predictable weather patterns, so natural disasters could be devastating to them. They could also devastate the world’s food supply. If farmers are unable to produce crops at the same rates due to changing weather patterns, food prices could rise. As a result, this could leave the world’s poor at risk of not being able to afford sufficient food.

Climate gentrification has disproportionate impacts on the world’s poor. Climate gentrification is the notion that the wealthy have the means to escape natural disasters, whereas the poor do not. Rising sea levels and increased temperatures may cause many to have to relocate. However, the poor may not have the resources to relocate. This puts them in grave danger and exposes them to the devastation caused by natural disasters.

By reducing carbon emissions in the private sector, the Science-Based Targets initiative hopes to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. These actions could save millions who could be subject to natural disasters. Reducing carbon emissions slows the greenhouse effect, preventing the global temperature from reaching unlivable levels. Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions could prevent the millions already in poverty from being subject to natural disasters. The Science-Based Targets initiative is quickly gaining traction worldwide. One would hope that the private sector continues to do its part to reduce global carbon emissions.

Harry Yeung
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