An urgent deadline is approaching, one that the inhabitants of this little blue-green planet are on track to miss. Unfortunately, the consequences of letting this deadline slide by are likely far more dire than a citation or a fine. Think cataclysmic.

The deadline in question: The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) stated in 2007 that by 2050, developed economies must reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by at least 80 percent in order to avoid dangerous climate change.

Yet despite the efforts of global companies to cut emissions, Earthlings aren't on pace to meet the necessary reductions in GHGs until 2089, 39 years too late.

Such are the findings of "The Carbon Chasm" [PDF], a report released this week by The Carbon Disclosure Project, a nonprofit organisation that holds the largest database of corporate climate change information in the world.

The report, written in conjunction with BT and drawing on data from and interviews with companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, and Nokia, isn't entirely doom and gloom. It provides recommendations for organisations to develop and hone GHG-reduction targets to help the global community meet the critical 2050 deadline.

One of the key recommendations from the CDP report: Every company should set a CO2-e (carbon dioxide equivalent, which covers the six major greenhouse gases, normalized to CO2) reduction target.

As it stands, companies establish various types of goals that can fall under the umbrella of environmental stewardship. Some measure in terms of CO2 reduction ("We'll shrink our annual carbon emissions by X percent by 2015"), whereas others measure in terms of energy consumption ("We'll reduce energy consumption by X percent by 2015") or energy efficiency.

Some organisations establish more than one type of target, though among the CDP's Global 100, CO2-e targets are most popular; 62 percent of the targets are CO2-related, compared to 15 percent based on energy consumption and 9 percent based on energy efficiency.

Yes, cutting GHG emissions is generally intertwined with reducing energy consumption or boosting energy efficiency. Using the latter as a target is "often favoured because of the more direct link to reduction in energy costs as well as emissions."

But by setting a clear target for shrinking your organisation's carbon footprint, you elevate the critical task of cutting carbon emissions from a by-product to a key business priority.