Corporate climate futures in the making: Why we need research on the politics of Science-Based Targets

Joachim Peter Tilsted*, Ellen Palm, Anders Bjørn, Jens Friis Lund

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debateResearchpeer-review

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In this Perspective article, we call for more scholarly attention to the politics of the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Specifically, we argue for a need to examine the emission pathways and decarbonised futures that are expressed and promoted through Science-Based Targets and what futures they render more likely in the pursuit of low-carbon transitions. We highlight how the SBTi's guidance material is characterized by a narrow and linear view of science (as input) as well as a similarly narrow portrayal of decarbonised futures (as outcome), despite the negotiated character of target-setting and the open-endedness of transitions. The SBTi thus currently tends towards obscuring the politics embedded within it and promoting an incumbent-driven transition, thereby legitimizing a transition shaped by some of the world's largest corporations and, in this sense, shielding them from democratic control. This argument illustrates the need for more scholarly engagement with the politics of knowledge that informs the SBTi and its governance framework. On a broader note, it highlights the need for continued critical engagement with corporate climate governance as it develops and takes on more ambitious forms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103229
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Science-based targets
  • Corporate climate governance
  • Paris agreement
  • Emission pathways
  • Incumbency


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