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Science-Based Targets Initiative Bars Fossil Producers Until New Carbon-Cutting Standard is Set

The Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) has decided to stop accepting carbon reduction commitments from fossil companies until it can complete a set of criteria for climate targets compatible with 1.5° or 2.0°C global warming that it had hoped to finalize in 2021.

SBTi dumped five fossils from its website last month, including Russian oil company Tatneft, Climate Home News reports.

“We decided it was just a reputational risk for SBTi to continue to accept commitments from oil and gas companies when we don’t know when the method will be available to use,” explained Technical Director Cynthia Cummis.

Earlier this year, SBTi was accused of creating a “platform for greenwashing” by allowing corporate giants to exaggerate the gains in their carbon reduction plans.

Now, SBTi membership is now closed to companies “with any level of direct involvement in exploration, extraction, mining, and/or production of oil, natural gas, coal, or other fossil fuels, irrespective of percentage revenue generated by these activities,” as well as their subsidiaries, the organization says on its website.

Oil Change International Research Director Kelly Trout said that decision made sense. “Science-based climate commitments from fossil fuel producers do not yet exist, and so it’s very welcome that SBTi is taking extra measures to make this clear in their policy,” she told Climate Home. “SBTi is still developing an oil and gas sector target-setting standard, so it remains to be seen how ambitious that standard will be and how oil and gas companies will respond to it.”

The standard has been in development for several years, and will be subject to peer review by a group that includes colossal fossils Shell, BP, and TotalÉnergies, as well as the World Wildlife Fund, the World Resources Institute, Carbon Tracker, academics, and investors, Climate Home writes. “It’s critical to have the companies participate in these processes as well because you need to make sure that, while the standards are robust and aligned with science, they also have some degree of practicality so that they ultimately are adopted,” Cummis said.

“It would be great to develop really robust standards but if nobody adopts them then they’re not very useful,” she added. “If they have some say in how they’re developed then you’re more likely to get them to buy into these standards and adopt them.”

Climate Home notes that SBTI’s revenue base includes the US$14,500 it charges companies to evaluate their targets.

Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Chair Tzeporah Berman warned that fossils “are not going to design their own demise”. That means “investors and governments must stop falling for the distorted math and false promises of the industry that are fuelling the crisis with their delay tactics,” she said.