Setting Emissions Reduction Targets

Businesses contribute a high proportion of global carbon emissions, so it’s vital that they reduce their footprint to account for their fair share of the climate budget.

Setting an emissions reduction goal is an important step for any forward-looking company, but how should you determine what target is appropriate?

What Are The Three Key Factors in Setting an Emissions Reduction Target?

There are three parts to setting an effective carbon emissions reduction goal:

  • A baseline or starting point;
  • A timeframe;
  • A specific emissions reduction target.

To establish the baseline, your organization should carry out a greenhouse gas inventory, otherwise known as calculating your carbon footprint. This is covered in greater detail in our article Understanding Carbon Emissions: Calculating Your Footprint.

Once you know the size of your footprint for a specified year, you can use that as the baseline figure against which to report future reductions. The target should be clear, achievable but also challenging enough to demonstrate real ambition.

For example, you might aim to reduce your carbon emissions in 2020 by 20% from a 2015 baseline; but how do you know whether this is the right reduction and the right timeframe?

Why Should You Set Science-Based Targets?

A science-based target is one that is in line with climate science. It means that every organization should reduce their emissions enough to limit the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius (2⁰C), as determined by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

As well as giving you an ethically defensible goal, setting a science-based target demonstrates that your company takes climate change and sustainability seriously. It can improve business resilience, increase investor confidence and enhance your brand with customers, staff and other stakeholders.

Businesses that set science-based targets may also score extra points in CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) assessments.

Should You Set an Absolute Target or an Intensity Reduction Target?

If your business is growing, it’s very tempting to set a carbon intensity reduction target, also known as a normalized target. This means cutting emissions per unit of measurement, such as revenue, manufactured units, or per employee, for example.

Although this is popular amongst business bosses – because it allows companies to grow while still hitting carbon reduction goals – it doesn’t guarantee that real cuts in greenhouse gas emissions will be made. This approach is therefore not compatible with science-based target setting.

To demonstrate a real commitment to tackling global climate change, businesses should set an absolute emissions reduction target. This means reducing the total carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of the organization – regardless of business growth.

What Happens If The Target Needs to Change?

Once a carbon reduction target has been set it might seem set in stone, but unexpected factors can require re-evaluation or refining of your goals.

Changes to government legislation can have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions targets. Cap and trade schemes, carbon taxes and other regulations might mean that targets need to be reassessed to meet stricter rules.

Other changes within the organization can also mean that new targets must be set. Company acquisitions, mergers or divestments will normally mean that the target is no longer fit for purpose, and both the baseline emissions and the reduction target should be recalculated.

Care should be taken to communicate clearly to stakeholders any changes to carbon reduction targets to avoid misunderstandings or accusations of ‘greenwashing’.

Is Carbon Neutrality a Realistic Target?

Aiming to make a business ‘carbon neutral’ can generate positive media coverage, attract new customers and set your company apart from the competition.

Achieving and maintaining net zero emissions is not easy, though; even highly efficient organizations, using renewable energy and implementing aggressive carbon reduction programs will find some remaining emissions that are impossible to eliminate.

Carbon neutrality is therefore normally only possible with the help of offsetting.

How Can NativeEnergy Help?

NativeEnergy can help your organization to calculate its carbon footprint so you can set a reduction target and begin to cut your emissions.

For the emissions you can’t eliminate, NativeEnergy Help BuildTM Carbon Offsets are the answer. For every tonne of CO2e, NativeEnergy can help you invest in a progressive offsetting project that will neutralize your emissions and deliver social, environmental and economic benefits to local communities. Contact us by phone at 800-924-6826 or by email at [email protected] to get help with calculating your business’s carbon footprint and setting a reduction target today.