Land use is responsible for more than a fifth of human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – half of which comes from clearance of forests and other ecosystems, mostly for crops, plantations, and livestock. In fact, land use change emissions are such a large slice of the total emissions pie for most businesses that produce, trade or source agricultural or forest products that if conversion is not eliminated from supply chains before 2030, companies have little hope of meeting credible climate goals in line with the Paris Agreement.
The way forward is now clear
Many companies have already made progress toward a key pillar of climate action by issuing deforestation- and conversion-free supply chain policies, and by taking action toward these goals through improvements in traceability, supplier engagement, monitoring, verification and landscape-level collaboration.
Now, these action pathways have merged: new guidance
from the Accountability Framework initiative, in partnership with SBTi and the GHG Protocol, provides a fully integrated approach for companies to manage land use change in their operations and supply chains. The guidance provides step by step information on how companies can set targets, account for land use change, and disclose progress to address deforestation and conversion while achieving emissions reduction goals.
Integrated target setting
Commitments and time-bound targets are important to communicate companies’ intentions, accelerate progress throughout the value chain, and support clear accountability. The new guidance describes how companies that produce or source agricultural or forestry commodities can develop integrated targets that address both:
- no-deforestation and no-conversion in their operations and supply chains;
- reductions in land-related emissions in their operations and supply chains, following SBTi FLAG guidance, which is part of the broader science-based target setting process.
It also explains the SBTi FLAG requirement to publish no-deforestation commitments as part of the FLAG target-setting and validation process.
Emissions accounting is integral to corporate climate action but presents unique challenges in the land sector. To help address these challenges, the new guidance describes how accounting for deforestation, ecosystem conversion and land use change emissions can be carried out using similar sets of assumptions, data and methods. Recognising that approaches to supply chain management and levels of traceability differ by context, the guidance details suitable methods for different scenarios, including:
- accounting for deforestation, conversion and related emissions at the level of the production unit, for producers and companies that purchase materials from known farms, plantations or ranches;
- accounting for deforestation, conversion and related emissions at the level of a sourcing area – such as a landscape, jurisdiction or supply-shed;
- estimating emissions for product volumes of unknown origin; and
- quantifying which volumes produced or sourced by the company are deforestation- and conversion-free.
Alignment of metrics and disclosure expectations can save companies time and effort while generating better-quality data. The guidance advances these aims by providing an integrated approach to reporting performance on land use change and associated emissions. This approach has also been adopted by key reporting platforms, such as CDP, thus enabling companies to build this guidance in their existing practices.
- describes good practice for reporting on deforestation, conversion and land use change emissions associated with company operations and supply chains;
- explains how existing reporting platforms and standards may be used to guide disclosure in accordance with these recommendations;
- provides a set of recommended indicators for all topics included in the guidance; and
- provides sample reporting tables to communicate information on deforestation, conversion and land use change emissions by commodity.
Making good on climate pledges
With the UNFCCC COP27 about to start in Egypt, the imperative for companies to take action on climate that includes elimination of land use change has never been more evident. The science is clear
that achieving both global and corporate climate goals requires eliminating emissions from all forms of land use change: from the clearance of forests as well as wetlands and peatlands, savannahs and grasslands.
Companies can use the new suite of guidance from the Accountability Framework initiative, SBTi and the GHG Protocol to make good on these pledges, and to act with clarity and confidence to address deforestation, ecosystem conversion, and associated carbon emissions in their supply chains.
Leah Samberg is lead scientist, global policy, Rainforest Alliance, and lead on the Accountability Framework initiative.
Matt Ramlow is a research associate at the World Resources Institute, and co-lead on the GHG Protocol’s draft Land Sector and Removals Guidance.
Martha Stevenson is a senior advisor for the SBTi.
Christa Anderson is co-lead of the SBTi FLAG project.