New reporting guidance for the food & agriculture sectors: the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) announces FLAG, the world’s first standard for land-based emissions

The forest, land and agriculture sector represents almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Now in a world first, the SBTi have created a standardised method which allows companies to set targets towards reducing and removing land-based emissions
New reporting guidance for the food & agriculture sectors: the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) announces FLAG, the world’s first standard for land-based emissions
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Land-intensive sector; a considerable contributor to emissions

With the forest, land and agriculture sector responsible for 22%, or almost a quarter, of GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions globally, it is second only to the energy sector in terms of emissions volume by sector. This sector is also one of those most at risk from climate change, given the threat of rising sea levels, changing weather patterns etc.

The SBTi argue that if the world is to keep to the target of a maximum of 1.5°C warming, as set out in the Paris agreement, cutting land-related emissions is paramount. This will also aid in increasing food security and support the transition to a net zero future.

Whilst many businesses with land-intensive operations have committed or set targets through the SBTi, few account for land-based emissions or removals in their targets or disclosures. The key barrier, the SBTi note, has been the lack of available guidance and methods, that is, until now.

Reporting help and guidance for the food and agriculture sectors with FLAG

The Forest, Land and Agriculture, or ‘FLAG’ Science Based Target Setting Guidance is set to help businesses within the food and agriculture sectors by providing them with tools to prevent the impact of climate change and to understand how to accelerate decarbonisation[i].

The key requirements of the SBTI FLAG guidance are as follows:

  1. Set near-term FLAG science-based targets:5-10 year emission reduction targets in line with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
  2. Account for removals in near-term FLAG science-based targets:GHG removals include improving forest management practices and enhancing soil carbon sequestration on working lands. Read more on how the FLAG pathways address carbon removals here.
  3. Set long-term FLAG science-based targets: Companies in the forest, land and agriculture sectors will reduce at least 74% of emissions by no later than 2050. They should use the SBTi Net-Zero Standardto set long-term FLAG science-based targets.
  4. Zero deforestation targets must be set for no later than 2025: In line with the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi)Read more on how this guidance accounts for land-use change emissions here.
  5. Set science-based targets for fossil emissions: Businesses with land-based emissions are required to set FLAG science-based targets AND science-based targets since all companies produce fossil emissions.[ii]

As farming UK notes, the framework has a whole-sector approach, covering everything from deforestation to shifts in diets. It includes eleven mitigation pathways for major commodities with high carbon footprints, including beef, palm oil, dairy, poultry, timber and wood fibre.[iii]

WWF senior director and SBTi senior advisor Martha Stevenson has said: “The commercialisation of our natural environment is a significant source of emissions and is also the sector most vulnerable to the effects of global warming: “Heat waves and droughts have become more frequent and intense. Storms have gotten [become] stronger and floods more destructive. This is already causing serious damage to ecosystems, threatening food security, human health, businesses and economies around the world – especially in emerging countries. To avoid the devastating impacts of the climate crisis and to build resilience in the most vulnerable communities, cutting land-related emissions must be a priority.” [iv]

The guidance from the SBTi comes as time continues to tick down on the numerous net zero goals set by governments and organisations across the globe, alongside the limited time left to combat emissions and limit warming to Paris agreement targets. 

Christa Anderson, co-lead of the SBTi FLAG project, said: “The next few years are critical in our efforts to address the climate crisis, and this guidance addresses 22% of global emissions that have largely been ignored to date. The food, land and agriculture sector has the potential to both cut emissions and enhance carbon sinks at the pace to keep the goal of limiting climate change to 1.5°C within reach.”[v] She added:

"Companies should incorporate this guidance into their planning and take action now - stop deforestation and improve land management practices — if we are to have a sustainable future tomorrow.”[vi]

References

[i] SBTi launches world's first standard method to help companies reduce emissions (grocerygazette.co.uk)

[ii] Forests, Land and Agriculture - Science Based Targets

[iii] World's first standard method launched for land-related emissions - FarmingUK News

[iv] SBTi launches world's first standard method to help companies reduce emissions (grocerygazette.co.uk)

[v] World's first standard method launched for land-related emissions - FarmingUK News

[vi] Ibid

 

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