New SBTi guidance for food businesses

Bespoke climate guidance for food, agriculture and forestry has been published by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi). 

The Forest, Land and Agriculture (FLAG) sector represents 22% of global emissions making it the largest emitter after energy. These have to be cut by 72% by 2050, according to SBTi.

More than 410 companies with land-intensive operations have committed to or set climate targets through the SBTi. Almost half are publicly reporting their emissions while 38% are committed to setting net-zero targets. 

However, few account for land-based emissions (those from forestry and agricultural production, land use change and land management) in their targets or disclosures. 

The new guidance will help food businesses accelerate decarbonisation of land emissions to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The framework covers everything from deforestation to diet shift and food waste. There are also 11 mitigation pathways for major commodities with high carbon footprints, including beef, palm oil, dairy and poultry.

Companies within land-intensive sectors, like food, or those with land-related emissions that contribute 20% or more of their overall emissions, will now be required to set FLAG science-based targets. 

Some 80% of the mitigation potential from land use change is from stopping deforestation. Companies setting FLAG targets are required to publicly commit to zero deforestation no later than 2025. 

As well as setting targets to reduce land-based emissions, the SBTi FLAG guidance requires companies to account for emission removals – like soil carbon sequestration and improved forest management – in their near-term targets. However, removals are not a substitute for deep emissions cuts, SBTi noted. 

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