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Agribusiness News October 2023 – Sector Focus: Greenhouse Gases

29 September 2023

Science-Based Targets Links to Farming Activities

The number of companies committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by adhering to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has increased by 87%, with over 410 companies with land-intensive operations setting emissions reduction targets.  Almost half of these companies are now publicly reporting their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

Both large and small corporations are taking steps towards reducing their carbon footprint by committing to reducing both direct (scope 1) and indirect (scope 2 and scope 3) GHG emissions, aligned with 1.5°C for scopes 1 and 2, and well below 2°C or 1.5°C for scope 3, engaging with their suppliers to establish a baseline and working with them to identify changes that can be made to reduce emissions from their indirect value chain.

GHG emissions from crop products on specific pathways such as wheat include:

  • carbon emissions from land-use change
  • from drained peat soils,
  • carbon and nitrous oxide emissions due to fertiliser production,
  • direct and indirect nitrous oxide emissions from soil due to fertiliser application,
  • nitrous oxide emissions from crop residue, and
  • methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural waste burning and carbon emissions from machinery on farms.

Standards and Protocols

There are specific standards in place that outline a protocol for Agriculture, Forest and Land Use (AFOLU) or Forest Land and Agriculture (FLAG) and specific FLAG sector pathways for ten agricultural commodities such as beef, maize, rice, and others for companies that have diversified FLAG emissions.

FLAG Science-Based Targets have great potential as they could implement both emission reductions and removals.

FLAG emissions include carbon emissions associated with land use change, land management, and carbon removal and storage.

  • Land use change includes deforestation, forest degradation, conversion of coastal wetlands, and peatland burning.
  • Emissions from land management practices include those such as biomass burning, soil management and tillage, agricultural waste burning, fertiliser use, nutrient and manure management, crop residues, machinery use and transport of biomass.
  • Carbon removals and storage include activities like forest restoration, silvopasture, agroforestry and enhancing soil organic carbon.

Supply Chain Collaboration

Food and drink companies that engage in agricultural activities on their supply chain are collaborating with farms to promote the adoption of regenerative practices, ensure healthy soils, reduce emissions at the farm level, and encourage the adoption of practices that promote sustainability.

To meet their sustainability goals, multiple companies have launched diverse initiatives to get farmers involved in their efforts to reduce the environmental impact. These initiatives include:

  • carrying out annual soil health evaluations to monitor land quality,
  • identifying alternative feed proteins for livestock,
  • tackling enteric emissions and reducing methane emissions from manure,
  • offering incentives to encourage farmers to reduce their carbon emissions,
  • pinpointing significant sources of GHG emissions, and better-implementing water management strategies, and
  • implementing environmental sustainability practices to ensure long-term sustainability.

Sustainability is a key concern for agri-food businesses, with consumers becoming more aware of environmental impacts. Science-based targets increase stakeholder engagement and resilience against regulations. Companies adopting science-based targets embrace innovation in agricultural practices and on-farm technology, potentially leading to bottom-line savings.

Although the impact on agriculture is not direct, it is playing a significant role, and it will become increasingly important as more manufacturers and retailers adopt and promote smart and sustainable agricultural practices to improve on-farm environmental performance.

Luisa Riascos, 

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