by Olivia Rosane

Only 20% of companies in G20 countries have plans to reduce their carbon emissions in line with climate science.

That’s the conclusion of a report published ahead of the G20 summit taking place this week by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

Science Based Targets 

SBTi was founded in 2014 and launched its first campaign in 2015, six months before the adoption of the Paris climate agreement. The initiative—formed by a coalition between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)—has set itself the goal of driving businesses and financial institutions to set science-based emissions-reduction targets.

“We are defining science-based targets as targets that have the ambition or a pace of decarbonization that is consistent with the pace of decarbonization needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees or well below two degrees,” Pineda explains.

To be consistent with limiting emissions to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels, a company must commit to halving emissions by 2030, Pineda says. To be consistent with limiting emissions to “well below” two degrees, they must pledge to reduce them a quarter by that date.

SBTi’s most recent analysis looked specifically at the commitments coming out of G20 countries, updating a report published in June that focused only on G7 countries.

“This new research shows that more than 4,200 G20 companies have set climate targets, but just 20% are science-based,” Member of the SBTi Executive Leadership team and Senior Manager at UN Global Compact Heidi Huusko writes in the report.

Further breaking it down, 2,999 G7 companies have disclosed targets to CDP, which is the non-profit that runs the global disclosure system for environmental impacts. However, only 25% of those targets are science-based. For the remaining G13 countries, 1,216 companies have set targets, but only 6% of these are sufficient to limit warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius).

Fair Share

The report noted that companies in high-emitting countries or industries need to step up. Indonesia, Russia, and Saudi Arabia are among the heaviest emitters in the world, but none of their companies have set appropriate targets. Further, in G7 countries, 10% of companies are responsible for 48% of emissions.

The number of companies setting science-based targets is on the rise, increasing 27% in G20 countries between June and August of 2021. Despite this, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions covered by these targets in G7 countries has not significantly increased since April, and this is because the heaviest emitting companies are not joining in.

“It is key of course to put particular pressure and incentive on those companies because those are the ones that have the largest impact,” Pineda says.

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