NGOs Challenge SBTi’s Aviation Pathway for Emissions Reductions

A consortium of 28 global NGOs, including Greenpeace and Transport & Environment, has openly expressed deep concerns about the The Science Based Targets Initiative’s (SBTi) latest work regarding aviation emissions. In an open letter, the NGOs called out the SBTi for allegedly facilitating greenwashing and setting unambitious climate targets within the aviation industry.

Concerns Over the Aviation Pathway

In February 2023, the SBTi unveiled a new technical report for an interim pathway for aviation, based on a 1.5-degree target. The NGOs argue that this pathway is flawed and helps the aviation industry maintain its growth while depleting the carbon budget.

The letter pointed out several issues with the pathway, stating that it allows the aviation industry to delay serious emission reduction until after 2030 and overlooks the non-CO2 effects of aviation. It also criticises the pathway for permitting the aviation industry to consume a larger part of the carbon budget than it currently does, which the NGOs deem a political decision, not a science-based one.

“The pathway does not ‘drive ambitious climate action in the private sector’, but facilitates greenwashing and unambitious target setting, and in doing so, hampers real climate action,” the letter stated.

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free of change in Issue II of the Green Mobility Magazine

The Fallout

The NGOs have called on the SBTi to revoke the interim technical report and create genuinely science-based pathways aligned with the 1.5-degree target. They argue that the current pathway is built on unrealistic assumptions about the scale-up of biofuels, e-fuels, and hydrogen and does not differentiate between emerging and early industrialised economies.

The NGOs also claim the pathway does not account for absolute emissions, which are crucial since they directly impact climate heating. Moreover, the pathway allegedly contradicts necessary demand-side changes, as it accepts the industry’s growth path. The NGOs suggest demand management strategies could reduce emissions by 40-70% by 2050, according to the IPCC.

Potential Impact on the Business Community

The letter’s criticisms, if valid, could have significant implications for the SBTi and the broader business community. If the SBTi’s pathways are indeed flawed, they may not effectively help companies reduce their emissions in line with the latest climate science. This could undermine the SBTi credibility and impact its relationships with businesses worldwide.

Moreover, if the aviation industry continues on its current path, it could exacerbate climate change, with potentially disastrous consequences for the global economy and society.

The SBTi has yet to respond publicly to the letter. However, the organisation will likely need to address these concerns promptly and transparently to maintain trust among its stakeholders.

The situation underscores the crucial role of science-based targets in driving meaningful climate action and the importance of rigorous scrutiny in ensuring these targets are robust, ambitious, and effective.