Large corporations are routinely announcing environmental targets, typically expressed as company-wide reductions in emissions or resource use compared to a baseline year. The rationale for setting a specific target is rarely clear. It has therefore been difficult to evaluate whether targets of individual companies in aggregation are ambitious enough to solve global environmental problems. To improve the situation, the “Science-based targets”-initiative was created in 2015 by a coalition of actors. The initiative encourages companies to set emission targets in line with the 1.5-2 degree goal of the Paris Agreement and offers methods and guidelines for doing so. To date, nearly 300 companies have defined a target this way and 400 more has committed to doing so. In this presentation, I describe the four official methods available for setting “science-based targets” and apply them to a case company. I then identify two weaknesses of the current “science-based targets”-initiative: First, that it only considers climate change, which may lead to suboptimal solutions. Second, that if each company chooses the method that gives them the easiest target, then we may fail to meet the 1.5-2 degree goal of the Paris Agreement. I then propose ways to address these two weaknesses: First, to expand the coverage of environmental issues to all “Planetary boundaries” by using recent methodological advances in environmental life cycle assessment. Second, to consider solutions put forward for the sharing of a global carbon budget between nations with conflicting understandings of what a “fair share” is.
About the speaker:
Anders Bjørn is doing a post-doc with Professor Shannon Lloyd on environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) of production and consumption activities. He has a specific focus on applying Planetary (and regional) boundaries in LCA to allow "absolute environmental sustainability assessment". The goal of an absolute assessment is to evaluate whether environmental impacts of an anthropogenic activity are low enough to be considered environmentally sustainable, and if not, how to set “science-based targets” to achieve this objective. This type of assessment considers climate change, but also other widespread issues, such as land use, water scarcity and perturbations of the natural nitrogen- and phosphorous cycles. Moreover, Anders is studying the uptake and use of methods for absolute environmental sustainability assessment by business through corporate sustainability disclosure. He also collaborates with several companies and LCA consultants on the use of these methods for corporate decision making and disclosure.