Learn: Net Zero

How to Set an Emissions Reduction Target

Setting emissions reduction targets has become imperative for governments and organisations worldwide.

These targets play a critical role in mitigating climate change, curbing pollution, and fostering a sustainable future. Let’s explore the essential steps to set emissions reduction targets, with examples to illustrate the process.

1. Assess Baseline Emissions

The first step in setting emissions reduction targets is to understand your current emissions profile. This involves quantifying the emissions that your operations, products, or activities release into the atmosphere. Conducting a comprehensive emissions inventory is key and should consider sources like energy use, travel, waste, and supply chains.

2. Define Clear Objectives

Once you have a baseline emissions figure, establish clear and specific objectives for reducing emissions. Ensure these targets align with broader sustainability goals and consider the following factors:

  • Outcome: e.g. “90% reduction”
  • Scope: e.g. “in scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions within our operational control”
  • End date: e.g. “by 2040”
  • Baseline: e.g. “compared to 2023 levels”

Ambitious long term targets like the one above should be backed up by medium and short term targets which provide accountability and serve as milestones to shape the reduction pathway.

Read our article on net zero (and other) targets.

3. Choose Your Methodology

Select a path for emissions reduction that suits your organisation's carbon footprint, structure and resources. Common approaches include energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy adoption, supply chain optimisation, and alternative fuels.

Once you have an understanding of your emissions baseline and the key contributors to your footprint, initiatives can be prioritised based on feasibility and expected impact. 

Researching the impact of key reduction opportunities can help a business land on an achievable yet ambitious target, so this step can sometimes occur before specific target setting.

4. Set Milestones or Interim Targets

Divide your emissions reduction journey into manageable milestones. These checkpoints help track progress and ensure that you're on course to meet your long-term targets.


A corporation has set a long term target as detailed in Step 2. 

  • Outcome:  90% reduction
  • Scope: in scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions within our operational control
  • End date: by 2040
  • Baseline: e.g. compared to 2023 levels

The corporation has determined its desired path to reaching this target, and has set a series of relevant milestones, including:

  • reducing emissions by 15% within the first three years, and 
  • implementing renewable energy sources across 50% of its operations within five years.

5. Monitor and Report

Monitor emissions data annually to gauge your progress. Transparent reporting is crucial, not only to track your success but also to engage stakeholders and inspire confidence in your sustainability efforts.

6. Adjust and Adapt

Emissions reduction is an evolving process, so be prepared to adapt your strategies and targets based on new technologies, regulatory changes, and emerging sustainability trends.

You’ve made it this far – starting is easy

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