Raising a FLAG for nature
This week we recognised International Day for Biological Diversity. A global movement aiming to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.
This year’s focus is From agreement to action: Build back biodiversity. Within this, it is the role of businesses to asses and disclose impacts and pivot towards sustainable practices. To enable organisations to disclose and assess impacts there is now another acronym to add to the copse: FLAG emissions – Forestry, Land and Agriculture emissions. This relates to land use change, land management, as well as any carbon removals and storage where it is within an organisations direct supply chain. Although not identical you may encounter the following other acronyms:
AFOLU – Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use
LULUCF – Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry
Nature and biodiversity is becoming an increasingly important topic within the biome of corporate ESG and has pollinated over the last few years with the development of a number of new and expanding frameworks from the likes of Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) and the creation of new ISO standards for Biodiversity Net Gain.
All of the above enable organisations to understand better their risks and opportunities in relation to nature and biodiversity and how to deliver a net-positive impact from the product and project level to organisations as a whole. An important first step in sowing an organisations impact will be measurement and quantification. Reporting and setting targets against FLAG targets will be an important first step.
What are FLAG emissions?
FLAG emissions are broken down into a broader system of topics:
Land use change:
A transformation from one land use category (e.g. cropland, grassland, forest/woodland, urban/industrial, wetland/tundra) to another category (e.g. transformation from natural forest to cropland):
- Direct land use change associated with deforestation and forest degradation (dLUC)
- Indirect land use change associated with deforestation and forest degradation (iLUC).
Land management (non-LUC):
- CH4 & N2O from manure management, fertiliser and crop residues
- CO2 from machinery use on farm and fertiliser production
- CH4 enteric emissions (meat-beef, dairy), agricultural waste burning and emissions from flooded soil (for lowland rice only).
Carbon removals and storage:
Unlike other energy-based emissions reporting, emission removals and storage can be absorbed into an organisations reporting provided it is within its supply chain. This can be associated with any of the following:
- Forest management, afforestation and reforestation, agroforestry
- Soil sequestration carbon and biochar.
Who does it apply to?
This emissions reporting applies to the following sectors:
- Organisations with more than 20% FLAG emissions across all scopes
- Forest and paper products
- Food and beverage production or process, staples and retailing.
FLAG emission reporting, as with other corporate emission reporting, should follow the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reporting protocol for Land Sector and Removals and therefore the process of reporting and recording these emissions is similar relying on good quality data collection, robust methods and calculations. These emissions should be accounted for based upon a commodity-by-commodity basis, guidance states that the following commodities are significant: beef, chicken, dairy, leather, maize, palm oil, pork, rice, soy, wheat and timber & wood fibre.
FLAG organisations are encouraged to measure and set targets against the following:
- Organisations setting FLAG targets are required to publicly submit a ‘no deforestation’ commitment, with a target to have deforestation-free supply chains by 2025. This covers all scopes of emissions and is not limited to the same 67% threshold for Scope 3 emissions.
- The minimum forward-looking ambition aligns with reducing emissions by 72% by 2050 from base-year levels, using a linear reduction from the most recent year to 2050.
- There are also other more specific commodity specific emissions targets.
For most organisations these emissions will nest within its value and supply chain, often referred to as Scope 3 and therefore reduction strategies will rely on supplier engagement and procurement strategies.
Author: Will Bourns, Senior Carbon and Climate Services Consultant
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