What does science-based approach mean, exactly, and what does it refer to?
A "science-based" approach to emission targets means that these goals were set in such a way that they conform to the requirements of emission reductions as described in the Paris Agreement. Science-based targets are thus shaped by what climate scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have determined to be the remaining world-wide emission budget if the 2°C goal from the Paris Agreement is to be met.
Through the use of science-based targets, a business can see exactly how its emissions should be reduced if it wants to conform to the Paris Agreement. When these measures are well implemented, a business has the chance to integrate value-adding, market-based socio-economic and political changes that are in keeping with the global resolution for the 2°C goal.
The difference between self-imposed and science-based emissions targets is the starting point for calculating targets.
Conventionally defined targets are determined according to each individual company’s potential contribution to climate change. They are thus generally too weak to fairly contribute to global climate targets. Science-based emissions targets are determined according to what climate scientists have identified as the remaining global carbon budget if the 2°C target is to be reached. Science-based targets thereby describe the necessary contribution of a single company in order to reach the overall target of preventing average global temperatures from rising more than 2°C.
Both institutional investors as well as corporate citizens can use their current influence and negotiating leverage to increase their competitiveness with the benefits of science-based emissions targets.