18/11/2020 News Environment, News

The race is on: new guide shows cities how to develop science-based climate targets ahead of COP26

  • First-of-its-kind guide published today to support cities worldwide to set emissions reduction targets in line with the latest climate science     . 
  • 450+ cities have already set ambitious targets and joined the Race to Zero, including 131 cities with targets that are reported to be aligned with a 1.5 degree scenario, and the guide aims to enable more to do so

November 18, 2020, London: Launched today at the cities session of the Race to Zero Dialogue events, a new guide makes it easier for cities to play their part in the race to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

It builds on the work of the Science Based Targets initiative, which has seen over 1,000 companies commit to set targets to reduce their emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals. 

Aimed at the world’s 10,000 cities, which are responsible for over 70% of global emissions,      the guide has been produced through the Science Based Targets Network by its core ‘cities’ partners CDP, C40, GCoM, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). 

Erin Billman, Executive Director of SBTN said: “We live in a rapidly urbanizing world. In the next 30 years, some 70 million people will move to urban areas every single year. By 2050, two-thirds of the global population will live in cities. To sustain future economic growth and remain safe and secure places to live and work, cities, states and regions must deliver urgent climate action quickly. With the IPCC science telling us that we have just 10 years to halve our emissions, cities have a critical role to play in the fight against preventing catastrophic climate change​.” 

Backed by months of technical research and testing, this guide assesses and explains different science-based climate target methodologies and their technical criteria, addressing the why and how cities can set science-based climate targets. Following the steps outlined in this guide, is one way cities that can join the globally recognised Race to Zero campaign since science-based climate targets for cities is one of the approved ways for cities to join the UNFCCC’s Race to Zero campaign ahead of COP26. 

COP26 in November 2021 will see national governments coming together to set out more ambitious climate goals in line with the Paris Agreement. Cities can help give national governments confidence to increase their ambition through setting their own science-based climate targets. 

Nigel Topping, UK High Level Climate Action Champion said: Cities are a crucial player in our race to net zero emissions and the creation of a healthy, resilient net-zero economy. Through their own strong policy and collaborative action, cities can positively reinforce and accelerate climate ambition by businesses, governments and civil society. By 2050, the world’s towns and cities will be healthy, affordable and inclusive places to live because they followed the science.

The new guide for cities aims to drive more momentum that builds on those cities already setting ambitious climate targets. For example, in 2020, 131 cities reported city-wide emissions reduction targets that they believe are aligned with a 1.5 degree trajectory through the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System. These cities represent 37 countries and an estimated 160.6 million people, or roughly 2% of the global population. On top of this, 535 cities and regions are already committed to climate neutrality through ICLEI’s Pioneers of Climate Ambition initiative, and these local and regional governments are primed to start their journey to net zero.   

And 100 cities that reported in 2020 already have net zero targets. These include Addis Ababa, Auckland (NZ), Greater Manchester (UK), Dijon Métropole, Guadalajara and Tokyo. In 2020, 371 cities, or 64% of reporting cities, stated that they have a city-wide GHG emissions inventory – a crucial component for meaningful target-setting. However many cities need support to increase their ambition in line with global goals. The new guide aims to help all types of cities with emissions reductions targets that require guidance and support to convert them into science-based targets. It will also help cities that do not have targets or require signposting to get started by understanding steps they need to follow. 

“Since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, more than twice as many cities are reporting emissions reductions targets through the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System, growing from 144 in 2015* to 340 in 2020. With almost 1,000 cities, states and regions now reporting their environmental data, this positive trend speaks to a wider scaling up of city ambition worldwide, as local governments the world over commit to stronger action to tackle climate change. Over the next decade, we need even greater ambition from cities at a more urgent scale and pace; setting a science-based target is the first step. We really are in the race of our lives.” Paul Simpson, Chief Executive, CDP.

Cities can capture the necessary data needed to support science-based climate target setting through the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System

*The CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System launched in 2019 to create one unified process for subnational climate action reporting.  2015 data above was reported through CDP.


For more information, or interview requests, please contact:

Susan Clandillon, Communications Consultant, CDP 

susan.clandillon@cdp.net | +44 (0)7708043909 

What is a science-based climate target? 

Science-based climate targets are measurable and actionable targets that allow cities to align their actions with societal sustainability goals and the biophysical limits that define the safety and stability of earth systems.

About the Science Based Targets Network

The Science Based Targets Network aims to help create a global economy in which companies and cities operate within the Earth’s limits while meeting society’s needs through the setting of science-based targets (SBTs) to transform their impact. It is comprised of 45+ organizations working together to provide science-based targets (SBTs) for companies and cities. It builds on the momentum of the Science Based Targets initiative to enable companies to set targets beyond climate. It is part of the Global Commons Alliance.


About the Global Commons Alliance

The Global Commons Alliance is an unprecedented partnership of the world’s most forward-looking organisations in philanthropy, science, business and advocacy. Its goal is to create the most powerful network to scale science-based action to protect people and planet. Its scientists are identifying a safe corridor for humanity based on the first integrated assessment of the whole Earth system. Its experts are identifying science-based targets for companies, cities and others for all the global commons. And it is building the essential media and advocacy systems to support societal transformation at scale – from individuals to companies, from cities to countries – across all global commons. www.globalcommonsalliance.org   

About Science-Based Targets for Cities, for Climate  

Science-based climate targets for cities is a collaboration by Science Based Targets Network core ‘cities’ partners CDP, C40, GCoM, ICLEI, the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Science-based climate targets for cities is one of the approved ways for cities to join the UNFCCC’s Race to Zero campaign ahead of COP26. 

Boilerplates and logos for all partners can be found here: https://trello.com/b/abzKZmdQ/science-based-climate-targets-for-cities-a-guide 

What is the Race to Zero? 

Race To Zero is a global campaign to mobilize leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient and fair, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.

Commitments under the Race to Zero alliance now cover just over half the global GDP, a quarter of CO2 emissions and a third of the population. The commitments adhere to minimum criteria, which requires them to be backed by solid plans and interim goals. 

City datasets

To see all public data reported by cities, visit CDP’s Open Data Portal here

Science Based Targets Network