What is the "Science-Based Target: Net Zero"? (SBTi: Net-zero)

I. Introduction

SBTi is a global organization and a joint initiative of the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the Nature Conservancy (WWF). Its primary focus is to assess and approve carbon reduction plans of companies worldwide, enabling them to set ambitious carbon targets based on robust and up-to-date climate science.

SBTi is a global organization and a joint initiative of the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC)

II. Definitions

As a significant contributor to society, companies play a crucial role in reducing carbon emissions and achieving net-zero emissions at a societal level. To do so, companies must substantially reduce emissions and offset any remaining emissions. In October 2021, with the SBTICORPORATE NET-ZERO STANDARD Version 1.0, SBTi defines the company's net-zero standard as:

Reducing Scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon emissions to zero or maintaining levels compatible with achieving a global or sectoral net-zero emissions target within a 1.5°C adjustment pathway. Neutralizing all remaining emissions from the target year onwards, including any greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere thereafter.

III. Framework of Work

The Net Zero Standard "SBTICORPORATE NET-ZERO STANDARD Version 1.0" lists four key elements that make up the company's net-zero target, and we need to consider the underlying rationale behind them.

3.1 Setting Near-Term SBTs (Short Term)

Aiming for a 5-10 year reduction target within the 1.5°C trajectory; Short-term targets refer to mild reductions of greenhouse gases within 5-10 years, specific to the company's industry category. Companies should establish a scientifically-based emission reduction slope aligned with the 1.5°C temperature trajectory for their industry.

Short-term targets, based on the science relevant to the target years, mean that a company's reduction targets will change according to the target year of short-term targets. When companies reach short-term target years, they must calculate new short-term scientific targets as milestones along their path.

Short-term targets are essential to ensure that companies do not exceed the global emission budget and should not be confused with long-term targets.

Furthermore, if more than 40% of Scope 3 emissions are assumed within the total scope (1 + 2 + 3), the reduction measures of Scope 3 emissions, which are two-thirds of the short-term target, can only follow the 2°C trajectory because this is a short-term target.

3.2 Setting Long-Term SBTs (Long Term)

Reducing emissions to a residual level consistent with a 1.5°C scenario (5%-10%) by 2050; Companies use long-term targets to indicate the extent to which they must reduce carbon emissions throughout the value chain to achieve global or sectoral net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, within a 1.5°C trajectory. Long-term targets promote coordinated and long-term business plans throughout the entire economy to achieve global emissions reduction targets required by climate science.

Until long-term science-based targets are met, a company cannot claim to have achieved net-zero emissions.

In contrast to short-term targets, long-term targets are required to include over 90% of scenarios when considering Scope 3 emissions and comply with the 1.5°C trajectory requirements when setting emission reduction targets and initiatives.

3.3 Reducing Value Chain Emissions

"Reducing value chain emissions" refers to actions to reduce or invest outside a company's value chain.

This includes activities to avoid or reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as activities to remove and store greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. During the transition to net-zero emissions, companies should take actions to reduce emissions outside their value chain. For example, purchasing high-quality REDD+ credits or investing in Direct Air Capture (DAC) and geological storage.

Companies play a crucial role in accelerating the transition to net-zero emissions and addressing the ecological crisis by investing in actions to reduce emissions outside the value chain. Such additional investments will help ensure the global community stays within the 1.5°C carbon budget but will not replace the rapid and substantial reduction of emissions from the core business of companies.

Carbon capture and storage represent a complementary aspect of human progress. Without strong investment, this technology cannot become a scalable force. SBTi incorporates and emphasizes this investment trend in four modules of the work framework, possibly as a preparation for future legislation.

3.4 Offsetting Residual Emissions

Once companies achieve long-term SBTs, greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere must be removed and stored (permanent removal and storage of carbon from the atmosphere) to achieve balance.

Note that in the SBTi standard, "offsetting" is only the ultimate means to offset non-declining emissions to achieve net-zero emissions; it is not used as a reduction metric in any scenario, and SBTi does not propose "carbon offsetting" in any scenario to achieve short-term targets, specifying that companies should prioritize protecting and enhancing carbon reservoirs (land, coastal, marine, etc.) to avoid emissions from depleted carbon reservoirs and urgently invest in emerging greenhouse gas removal technologies (such as direct air capture). Page 11.


IV. Approaches to Establishing Near-Term and Long-Term Scientific-Based Targets (SBTs)

In the fourth chapter of the original article, five steps for goal setting are highlighted, and some principles are organized in section III of this article for readers.

OFFICIALS SHOULD NOTE THAT THE SBTICORPORATE NET-ZERO STANDARD 2021 version 1.0 is 65 pages long and has repeated text in many places. For example, when illustrating short-term goals, it should be emphasized that if the Scope 3 ratio exceeds 40%, then 67% (2/3) of scenarios and measures for reducing Scope 3 emissions should be considered, and this document is repeated at least 5 - 7 times. The entire text can truly be explained in about 20 PPT slides. This article is for translation, arrangement, and reference. For all the details, please see Net-Zero-Standard.pdf.

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Below is an explanation of some terms in the text:

1* REDD+:

The commitments that countries make to mitigate and adapt to climate change, as described by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, REDD+ or "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation," are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 17 global goals designed to guide development efforts. The REDD+ mechanism is directly related to achieving Goals 13 and 15, specifically addressing climate change, reducing deforestation, and promoting sustainable ecosystem use. Additionally, REDD+ contributes to achieving other Sustainable Development Goals, such as reducing poverty, improving health and well-being, alleviating hunger, and strengthening governance.

2* (DAC) Direct Air Capture:

Direct Air Capture of Carbon Dioxide (DACs), sometimes referred to as DAC or DACCS, is one of the few carbon dioxide removal technologies from the atmosphere. DACs can be described as an industrial photosynthesis process, a DAC system that uses electricity to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through fans and filters, returning the remaining portion of the air to the atmosphere. Captured carbon dioxide is compressed under very high pressure and transported to deep geological layers through pipeline pumps. Through natural mineralization, it transforms into rock within a few years, and this permanent storage process is called "sequestration." Due to the high energy consumption of the technology, such as electricity, it is often challenged by the scientific community. DACs cost between $200 and $600 per ton of CO2, hence they are also known as luxury carbon capture.

3* Geological Storage

The fundamental principle of geological storage is to simulate the natural mechanisms for storing fossil fuels and storing CO2 in geological formations. CO2 can be transported to suitable locations through pipelines or vessels and then pumped into geological formations under specific geological conditions and depths. Suitable geological conditions for geological storage of CO2 include old oil and gas fields, hard-to-reach coal seams, deep aquifers, and other geological environments. In each type, geological storage of CO2 involves pumping liquid CO2 into rock formations below the ground. The storage depth is usually under 800m, and the temperature and pressure conditions at this depth can maintain CO2 in a high-density liquid or supercritical state. The burial time for carbon dioxide is thousands or even tens of thousands of years. Due to its complexity, this technology is still in the testing phase and must also address challenges from other research sectors, such as whether the additional risks posed by this storage technology to geological formations on Earth will exacerbate geological disasters and threaten the Earth's core temperature balance, etc.