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COA professor Doreen Stabinsky weighs in on the little-known group setting the corporate climate agenda [MIT Technology Review]

The Science Based Targets initiative has earned praise for pushing companies to take climate action, but can voluntary emissions targets really get the world where it needs to be?

By Ian Morse • MIT Technology Review

As thousands of companies trumpet their plans to cut carbon pollution, a small roundtable of sustainability consultants has emerged as the go-to arbiter of corporate climate action.

The Science Based Targets initiative, or SBTi, helps businesses develop a timetable for action to shrink their climate footprint through some combination of cutting greenhouse-gas pollution and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

For a fee, this team of several dozen analysts and technical experts will work with companies to set and publicize targets for cutting their share of emissions, deeply and quickly enough to conform with international efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 ºC above preindustrial levels. SBTi says the goals it sets are meant to convey that the business has put in place a credible schedule for driving down or eliminating emissions, in line with “the latest climate science.”

After years of small-scale sustainability work, SBTi is growing rapidly. It has now stamped its approval on the emissions reduction timelines of more than 2,600 companies, including Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Apple. It’s working to develop climate targets with more than 2,300 more, and hopes to help set them for some 10,000 businesses by 2025.

Governments are taking notice of its work as well. Last November, the White House proposed rules that would require large federal contractors to set SBTi-approved emissions reduction plans.

The group has earned praise for some of its strictest policies, and for reeling the private sector into a constructive conversation about climate emissions.

But its rising influence has also attracted scrutiny and raised questions about its outsize role. The fact that a single organization is setting the standards for many of the world’s largest companies makes it essential for those climate targets to be trustworthy. A number of researchers now question whether SBTi’s corporate guidelines are adequately aggressive, equitable, and clear.

Read more…