When the IPCC released its Fifth Assessment Report earlier this spring, its message was clear: We must do much more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep below 2 °C and limit climate change’s impacts. By presenting the current science, impacts, and options for addressing climate change, the IPCC has laid the groundwork for governments and the private sector to start taking more ambitious action. The next step for companies is to align their own plans with larger climate goals.

Setting greenhouse gas (GHG)-reduction targets has become common practice for large, multi-national companies, but they generally take a conservative approach that is independent of what climate scientists say is necessary. Companies typically set targets based on expected emissions reductions from planned projects, which can limit innovation and ambition. When companies look to organizations such as WRI, CDP and WWF for guidance, we don’t yet have any widely agreed-upon methodology to help them set more ambitious goals in line with climate science.

That’s why WRI, CDP, and WWF recently launched the “Mind the Science, Mind the Gap” initiative. This effort is developing a new, sector-specific methodology that helps companies set science-based emission-reduction targets based on the IPCC decarbonization pathway that would keep global temperature rise below 2 °C. In other words, rather than basing goals on reduction projects a company has in the pipeline, this methodology says “How much do climate scientists and the IPCC recommend reducing emissions in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and how can we meet that challenge?”

The “Mind the Science, Mind the Gap” initiative seeks to raise the ambition of corporate target-setting levels and drive bolder business solutions. The first phase of the project includes developing a target-setting methodology that allows companies to set credible, science-based GHG emissions reduction targets on a company-wide level—with as little effort as possible and consistent with the IPCC 2 °C scenario. WRI, CDP, and WWF will also develop a guidance document later this year. The guidance will review available science-based goal setting methods, recommend how to choose the most appropriate approach, and describe ways to practically implement the method within a company. The second phase of the project, to be launched in 2015, will include outreach and engagement with companies on goal-setting as well as additional activities to track companies’ performance.

Development of the methodological guidance is the first step is an ongoing process of bringing company GHG emissions in line with climate science.
Development of the methodological guidance is the first step is an ongoing process of bringing company GHG emissions in line with climate science.

How Companies Can Participate

There are several ways to get your company involved in the “Mind the Science, Mind the Gap” initiative:

  • WRI, CDP, and WWF will host public workshops on May 16th in London and May 22nd in Washington, D.C. to present an initial draft of the sector-specific approach to goal setting and discuss other components of the guidance. Both workshops will also be streamed online for remote viewing.

  • WRI, CDP, and WWF will also host a subsequent webinar to gather additional input on the methodology from stakeholders in Asia and Australia.

  • Members of WRI’s Corporate Consultative Group (CCG) are encouraged to participate, and staff will circulate updates on the methodology to CCG members.

  • A draft of the full guidance on setting science-based targets will be available for public comment in Fall 2014.

For more information on the “Mind the Science, Mind the Gap” initiative, please contact Nate Aden.