Defining ‘science-based targets’


The 2015 Paris Agreement to keep global warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and aim towards limiting warming to 1.5°C marked a watershed in planetary governance, for two reasons.

First, of course, it set an explicit, quantitative target for sustainability with strong support from science, in a clearer way than had ever been done before.

Second, perhaps even more important, this target is structured in a way that it can be disaggregated across the sectors of society which will need to take action to achieve it. This includes not only the nations who agreed on the target in the first place, but also non-state actors, such as cities, regional governments and the private sector.

We see the prospect for each component of society to ‘do their bit’ towards ameliorating climate change as a fundamentally important precedent for global governance. With the upcoming 2020 timelines for a number of the targets under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as for the plans of a number of multilateral agreements, the world has a grand opportunity to replicate this concept of ‘science-based targets’.


Link to centre authors: Rockström, Johan
Publication info: Andersen, I., Ishii, N., Brooks, T., Cummis, C., Fonseca, G., Hillers, A., Macfarlane, N., Nakicenovic, N., Moss, K., Rockström, J., Steer, A., Waughray, D. & Zimm, C. 2021. Defining `science-based targets’. National Science Review 8(7), nwaa186.