Zero Emissions

The Race to Zero Emissions: three campaigns your organisation can sign up today

In October 2018 the IPCC published a special report highlighting the need for us to stay below 1.5 degrees warming compared to pre-industrial times. Since this announcement, a plethora of campaigns and policies have been put forward across the globe, some more pertinent than others, to achieve zero emissions.

Recently Germany passed a bill to be coal free by 2038 and nuclear free by 2022. This is hugely positive and sets an example for the rest of the world. The UK has set a legal target to be net zero by 2050.

This said, it can be hard as an organisation or indeed a country to know where to start. This article will evaluate the following three campaigns initiated to tackle climate change and to stay within the 1.5 degree trajectory: UNFCC Race to Zero (Call to join the Climate Ambition Alliance); Business Ambition for 1.5C; and Science Based Targets (SBTi - the coalition is CDP, WWF, UNGC, WRI).

All three campaigns offer clear guidance in line with scientific research yet they each take a slightly different approach. The Science Based Targets initiative focuses on mitigation (limiting the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted) whereas the UNFCC Race to Zero is centred around adaptation (preparing for the consequences). The Business Ambition for 1.5C provides a call to action for businesses whereas the UNFCC Race to Zero is a space for nation, business, and investor collaboration.

A barrier to all three campaigns is that they are not compulsory. Organisations must opt to sign up. There is no binding law that means all businesses or countries must set targets in line with climate science. However, signing up will ensure you future proof your business and work towards a future devoid of the climate crisis.

UNFCC Race to Zero

Race To Zero is a global campaign to rally leadership and support for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.

Race to Zero is a call to join the climate change ambition alliance led by Chile,  a collaboration of 114 nations who are determined to follow climate change science and stay within the 1.5-degree trajectory of warming above pre-industrial times.

The alliance focuses on adaptation -  ‘actions taken to minimise the impacts of climate change across individual, local, organisational, and national levels. Essentially a ‘be prepared for the consequences’ approach, with a view to minimise vulnerability and increase resilience.’

The alliance particularly focuses on adaption regarding water, cities and infrastructure. Cities account for 70% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. What’s more 55% of the world’s population live in cities.  

Race to Zero mobilises a coalition of leading net zero initiatives, representing 449 cities, 21 regions, 995 businesses, 38 of the biggest investors, and 505 universities. Collectively these actors accounts for nearly 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions which have set net-zero emissions targets by 2050, in line with climate science.

  • How to join the race to zero?

You can sign up as a network, supporter or actor by filling in an application form. This needs to outline your pledge, the plan you have in place, actions taken, a published strategy report, your carbon footprint, any offsetting you may do, future uncertainties and governance arrangements. 

Going through this application form will involve assessing your operations and working out how best to reduce your carbon footprint. Consequently, it is a worthwhile exercise one which has many benefits.

An advantage of joining the UNFCC Race to Zero is membership  of an extensive network with useful tools and resources, and participating in best practice and leadership projects in climate change strategy. Joining is completely free and enables your organisation to benchmark against others in the same industry. Sharing ideas and innovation though the alliance can help us combat climate change.

Business Ambition for 1.5C 

The Business Ambition for 1.5 is a call to action for businesses across the world to do their bit for climate change. The agreement has been signed by 271 corporate leaders, including representative from Zurich Insurance, Unilever, Tesco and Pepsi Co.

For a business to sign up they must sign this letter promising to either set science based targets in line with 1.5 degree scenarios or make a net zero commitment by 2050 and interim science-based targets.

Science based targets are goals which align with the latest climate science. A company must reduce their carbon footprint emissions by enough to ensure we do not exceed 1.5 degrees of warming.

To set science-based targets you must first calculate your carbon footprint. This can be done using Compare Your Footprint – an online carbon calculator tool. Following this Green Element can help you set science-based target reductions. For scope 1, 2 and 3 this will be a reduction of roughly 46% by 2030. If your businesses scope three makes up less than 40% of your overall carbon footprint it does not need to be included in your target.

At Green Element we have set and validated our science - based targets in line with the 1.5 degree trajectory. We’ve also conducted the full science-based targets calculation and verification process on behalf of clients. You can read about this on our website under our Grant Thornton case study.

Interim science-based targets can be in line with a 2-degree trajectory allowing companies more flexibility in the short term but a more vigorous strategy in the long term to reach net zero.

If you have already set up science based targets it is highly recommended that you sign the Business Ambition for 1.5C as you have already done all the hard work. Plus at this stage it is completely free. Read on to learn about the benefits of setting science-based targets.

Science Based Targets initiative

Science Based Targets initiative is a ‘collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), World Resources Institute (WRI), and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and one of the We Mean Business Coalition commitments.’

The initiative verifies targets and publishes them helping to promote achieving goals and encourages others to follow suit. The Science Based Targets initiative provides tools and guidance to organisations wishing to reduce their environmental impact.

To join the initiative costs: ‘USD 4950 (+VAT). This includes two target assessments (companies can choose between one preliminary and one official, or two official validations). Subsequent resubmissions under the target validation service cost USD 2490 (+ applicable VAT) per submission’.

There is also a discount for SMEs (companies with fewer than 500 full time employees). SMEs now only pay $1,000 US dollars to have their science-based targets verified. Plus, they can bypass the initial step of committing to the target and the target validation process. They also have more flexibility in setting targets and don’t have to include scope 3.

Included in the cost of joining the Science Based Targets initiative is having your targets verified by an external body, a wealth of publicity and tools and resources needed to calculate your emission goals in line with the latest science.

  • Why should you sign up?

Setting science-based targets will:

  1. Save you money – monitoring your operations will highlight areas that can be streamlined. Plus, swapping to renewable energy you will see a cut in your monthly bills.
  2. Future-proof your business - there are numerous risks associated with climate change, so it is important to act now to mitigate these. More organisations are signing up and you do not want to be left behind.
  3. Create an opportunity to innovate your service offerings - transform your business model by catalysing a transition towards a low carbon economy.
  4. Improve your reputation and attract more business opportunities - An increasing number of companies now place a heavy emphasis on environmental factors, which are accounted for in a variety of processes, particularly tendering. SBTs will ensure your business is at the forefront.  Many employees also place much more value working for a more responsible employer, particularly the younger generations, who are going into the workforce.
  5. Improve your credibility - demonstrating a commitment towards SBTs will improve your organisation’s stance in the market. An increasing number of organisations are already divesting from those involved in fossil fuel production or consumption.
  6. Comply with new regulation - there will undoubtedly be an increasing amount of environmental regulation and mandatory reporting requirements that will arise in the future. Already in 2019, the new SECR requirements were rolled out. Setting SBTs will ensure that your business is well prepared for these.
  7. Resilience - adopting more circular principles within your business means more protection from risk – you can’t manage what you don’t measure
  • How to sign up?

There are four key steps in the process.

  1. Commit - your organisation needs to submit a signed commitment letter to demonstrate that you will be taking action.
  2. Set the target - a window of 24 months after Step 1 will be given for developing the target.
  3. Submit target - a ‘target submission form’ is to be completed after target has been developed. This will be verified.
  4. Announce- once approved, you are good to go – you can showcase the target and communicate it out.

Note – The current focus of SBTs is on corporates. SBTi does not work with cities, governments, public sector organisations, educational institutions, and NGOs at present.

If you’d like to know more about SBTs or would like to be a part of this initiative, please do get in touch with us.

Which campaign should my organisation sign up to?

All three campaigns prove useful exercises, they allow your organisation to monitor and benchmark your entire operations.

For all three the first step is calculating your carbon footprint. For this you can use Compare Your Footprint our online carbon calculator. All you have to do is plug in your data and the rest is taken care for you. Once your report has been generated, you’ll be able  to set the appropriate targets, goals and pledges for you to embark upon your journey on the path to net zero.

Setting the goals and targets will be the same for the Science Based Targets initiative and Business Ambition for 1.5C.  Consequently, after you set your science-based targets it is worthwhile signing up to the Business Ambition for 1.5C. There is no extra cost to this, and it will greatly enhance your public profile. What is more, signing up to both initiatives will promote staying within the 1.5C trajectory among global corporates, encouraging others to follow suit.  If we are to meet our global climate change targets it is paramount that businesses actively set goals and lead the way. A great way to do this is to join forces and sign up to campaigns like these.

for The UNFCC Race to Zero (Call to join the Climate Ambition Alliance) differs slightly from both for the Science Based Targets initiative and Business Ambition for 1.5C in so far as it has a bigger scope which focuses on not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions but putting in place initiatives to protect us from the changes that will take place due to a warming climate. For example, The UNFCC Race to Zero focuses on long term decision making and governance and encourages applicants to consider how their targets link to political declarations and actions. 

Which campaign will you sign up to? Do you need help and direction in taking this to the next step?

For more information read our Road to Net Zero Guide here and contact us today if you need help managing your net zero emissions.

We would love to hear from you.


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