This is an introductory post. To find out what Science-Based Targets mean for commercial real estate firms, look out for Part 2. You can join our exclusive mailing list here.
What does it all mean?
Interest in Science-Based Targets (SBTs) has grown significantly following last year’s Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris (which led to a climate change agreement signed by 195 member states) and more recently at COP22 in Marrakech.
Climate modelling studies point to the influence of human-driven climate change on increasing overall global surface temperatures. SBTs have been established to support achievement of the agreed target which aims to keep global warming below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures (IPCC, 2013). Thus, it is important to situate CO2 emissions within the framework of the past, present and future (IPCC, 2013) and this represents a long-term commitment in tackling climate change.
Science-Based Targets: The Potential?
There is a lot of potential for SBTs, as their use could bolster corporate action on making long-term greenhouse gas emission reductions, as carbon emissions have been proven to enhance the earth’s greenhouse effect, leading to increasing global surface temperatures.
However, SBTs will only be effective because they align to the Paris Agreement’s 2°C target which is a simple, clear goal that not only conveys the urgency of the need for action, but also allows policy-makers to make decisions which have global significance (Rahmstorf, 2014).
How Scientific is a Science-Based Target?
SBTs are scientific in the sense that they align to the 2°C global warming target, but the process that goes into designing a SBT is complex and resource-intensive and may not be transparent to the user. As with climate modelling techniques, tools used to inform SBTs are still undergoing refinements, and to this end, there are still some issues to consider in terms of their practical applications.
To the user, SBTs appear as a ‘black box’ solution. Information on user activities are inputted into the systems and this is used to generate outputs. However, to the regular user, little known about how the calculations are made. Understanding on how SBTs work will need to develop before we see widespread use.
Even without a SBT, it makes sense to seek energy-saving measures, apply sustainability strategies to prevent loss of financial value and improve organizational reputation. If used correctly, a SBT can support development of improvement goals and plans. However, such targets can vary according to the context of use, importantly, the data used to inform the target-setting process at the outset. Moving forward, it will be important to assess the applicability of each SBT approach and how it works in practice.
There are multiple SBT methodologies out there and results will differ dependent on the approach taken. At a user level the analogy of cake baking using different ovens can be used. All ingredients are prepared in the same way, however, different ovens lead to differing results. One questions whether multiple different approaches will help to achieve the common goal or will the complexity cause confusion and possibly even slow progress.
SBTs are still in their infancy. Profile is increasing but understanding is still low. The initiative is certainly thought-provoking and something to look out for in the future. At the present time, SBTs do not have the same weight in the commercial real estate sector than it does in other sectors and take-up has been slow.
Look out for Part 2 in this series: Science-Based Targets: Discussions for Commercial Real Estate
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