How to set Science-Based Targets for Carbon Reduction?

In this sixth article of a series of Climate Emergency articles, I provide a guide on how to set Science-Based Targets for the reduction of Greenhouse Gas emissions & the targets that I have set for my environmental consultancy, onePlanet Solutions.

This article looks at the practical steps for setting a Science-Based Target for business Greenhouse Gas emissions on behalf of my business through the Pledge to Net Zero initiative for the environmental sector in the United Kingdom.

If you missed earlier posts in this series: How to declare a Climate Emergency? , How I declared a Climate Emergency? & What I did after I declared a Climate Emergency?, How to calculate to calculate Greenhouse Gas Emissions for a Climate Emergency & What is my Company’s Carbon Footprint you can catch-up on the steps taken on behalf of my environmental consultancy to declare a Climate Emergency.

When I first looked at the requirements to set Science-Based Targets, I found that there was a lot of articles covering its approach and the organisations, who have set targets but very little information on “How” to set such targets.

To help you through this process, I have done the research for you.
Here the Pledge to Net Zero initiative came to the rescue with a clear guidance note and, even, better a spreadsheet, which can guide you from your Baseline Year emissions towards appropriate targets.

Here are the steps that I followed:

1. Calculate your Carbon Footprint for your Baseline Year
Initially, research your energy usage into three categories.

Scope 1, energy directly consumed by your organisation, such as gas used in boilers or fuel in transport (e.g. business mileage)

Scope 2, energy generated elsewhere and consumed by your organisation, such as electricity generated at a Power Station and used in your business.

Scope 3, energy consumed in the delivery of good and services to your organisation, such as transport for business purposes (excluding car mileage), such as train travel, flights and taxis, or the use of hotel accommodation. Often, travel is the most significant carbon intensive element of a business’s operations.

Using the relevant conversion factors for 2019 and 2018, which can be found in earlier articles: UK Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting: Conversion Factors 2019 & UK Greenhouse Gas Reporting: Conversion Factors 2018, calculate the carbon emissions for each of the above Scopes using the simple formula, below:

GHG emissions = activity data x emission conversion factor

There are a wide range of conversion factors that can be used not only to calculate Greenhouse Gas emissions from the use of energy and business car mileage but, also, from the use of waste disposal, flights and hotel accommodation.

Further information on how to calculate your Carbon Footprint is given in my earlier article here

3. Calculate the Science-Based Target using the SBTi Tool
Download the SBTi Tool from the link here, which you will find in the Download folder on your computer or other selected location.

The SBTi Tool comes with basic instructions within the “README” and “Quick Guide” tabs within the spreadsheet.

My recommendation is to chose the “Absolute Contraction Approach” as your Target Setting Methodology and to use your latest Carbon Footprint as your “Base Year”, which is likely to be 2019/2020, together with your preferred “Target Year” set between the available options of “2024 – 2060”. Given that most experts are aiming for a Target Year of between 2025 – 2030, you may wish to select the most appropriate “Target Year” for your business.

Enter your Scope 1 and 2 emissions in the relevant sections within the “SBTi Tool” tab and the spreadsheet will automatically calculate your carbon emissions target for your Target Year and the “% Reduction” in Section 3 of the spreadsheet with two options:

Well Below 2 degrees scenario (WB2C)
1.5 degree Scenario

The latter is the more demanding and the scenario favoured by experts looking to avert a Climate Emergency. This is the scenario that I choose for the calculation of the Science-Based Target for my business.

Similarly, the Scope 3 Target can be set using a similar method in the tab “Scope 3 Tool”. It is important to set a Scope 3 target under the Pledge to net Zero initiative where the Scope 3 emissions account for 40% or more of the total emissions.

The Scope 3 Tool gives three Target options;

2 degrees scenario
Well Below 2 degrees scenario (WB2C)
1.5 degree Scenario

Again, I suggest choosing the 1.5 degree Scenario for the same reasons given for the Scope 1 and 2 target setting.

In my calculation of a Science-Based Target, I recognised that there are Scope 1 +2 reductions that can be made but the greatest savings are found in Scope 3 as my environmental consultancy has significant and developing overseas business in the European Union, United States and Asia.

Therefore, my Science-Based Targets have been set as follows:

“Using a 1.5-degree Celsius scenario, onePlanet Solutions are committed to the following science-based emissions reduction targets calculated using the SBTi Tool (Version: 1.1) for the reduction of our carbon emissions covering Scope 1 and 2 & Scope 3 emissions using an Absolute Contraction Approach for our Baseline Year 2018:

  1. Reduce our Scope 1 and 2 emissions comprising our business car travel & use of electricity and gas to meet a 29.4 % reduction of emissions to not exceed 6 tCO2e by the Target Year 2025
  2. Reduce our Scope 3 emissions comprising our business air travel, public transport including taxis, hotel accommodation and waste disposal to meet a 29.4 % reduction of emissions to not exceed 105.9 tCO2e by the Target Year 2025

Our emissions inventory reporting will be undertaken in accordance with The Greenhouse Gas Protocol – A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard (World Resources Institute & World Business Council for Sustainable Development, March 2004) using the appropriate UK Government GHG Conversion Factors for Company Reporting for the relevant Reporting Year.

Progress towards our targets will be reported each financial year no later than 31 August following the end of each Reporting Year (5 April)”.

A full copy of our Science-Based Targets has been submitted to the Pledge to Net Zero initiative and can be downloaded here

In the next article in this series, I will update on my other commitment to Net Zero through the United Nation’s Climate Neutral Now programme.

Look out for the next article…

I welcome your comments and thoughts about the methodology for calculating Science-Based Targets and calculating the Targets for the reduction of Greenhouse Gas emissions from your business.

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  1. This is great Andrew – I have a job interview where I have been required to make a presentation on calculating SBT’s for a global pharmaceutical company – it seems you have given a great framework for me to build around. I intend on using real numbers and making some assumptions, to bulk out my presentation. However, I notice that although you have gone through the steps of the actual calculation and target setting, there is no mention/consideration of the carbon budget or the emission scenario. Surely, the calculations are redundant if they do not fit within the carbon budget and a given emissions scenario. How do you account for this in your calculations? Thanks in advance for your response.

    1. Thank you for your feedback on my article on “How to set Science-Based Targets for Carbon Reduction?”.

      You are correct – The SBT should be, and my targets are, supported by a carbon budget (or individual carbon reduction projects) to ensure that year-on-year reductions are progressing towards the overall target. My targets have a annual ceilings to ensure that my emissions do not exceed the overall progression to my carbon target and my individual reduction projects set the annual target to drive the continual improvement in carbon intensity reduction.

      My intention is to update the article later in 2021, both as an article and a video, so you might want to catch-up on my YouTube videos at

      Good luck with your job interview and the opportunity to drive the carbon reductions within the pharmaceutical industry.

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