Nature-Based Solutions in Science-Based Targets
Many companies strive to include Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in their climate strategies within the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).1 When done right, NBS for climate mitigation are a genuine win-win. Companies deliver on their climate goals and simultaneously support nature and address societal challenges. Here we provide a brief outline of how NBS fit into Science-Based Targets and what’s coming soon.
Current State of NBS in Science-Based Targets
Companies with land sector emissions. Right now, companies with forest, land, and agriculture (FLAG) emissions in their supply chains can include these emissions in their inventory and abatement target setting.2 Companies that choose this approach can then pursue reduction activities within NBS to meet their Science-Based Targets within their supply chains (e.g., stopping deforestation and conversion; reducing on-farm emissions like fertilizer use and manure management; reducing food waste; changing product mix/diet shift; etc.).
Companies without land sector emissions. NBS for climate are not always a first-choice solution. In particular, corporate funding for NBS should not be used to avoid or delay action to reduce emissions from fossil fuels within a company’s operations or supply chain. So a company without
land-based emissions in its supply chain cannot use NBS to meet near-term SBTi targets. Once a company’s SBTi abatement target requirements have been met, it may explore investment in NBS toward future nature targets (e.g., through the Science Based Targets Network) or toward mitigation goals that go beyond Science-Based Targets, as outlined in World Wildlife Fund and Boston Consulting Group’s Blueprint for Corporate Action on Climate and Nature.
New Opportunities for NBS in Science-Based Targets
New land sector guidance for FLAG emissions. WWF, a founding member of SBTi, is developing specific agriculture, forestry, and other land-use (AFOLU)3 mitigation pathways for companies with land sector emissions in their supply chains. These new pathways will not only include emissions reductions but also removals within the land sector. The guidance will detail overall AFOLU sector mitigation pathways as well as 10 specific mitigation pathways for major commodities: beef, chicken, dairy, maize, palm oil, pork, rice, soy, wheat, and roundwood. In parallel and in coordination, the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol is developing new guidance for corporate land-use and removals accounting. Novel comprehensive guidance on accounting and target setting for land-based emissions means that companies have an opportunity, and a requirement, to bring NBS—both emissions reductions and removals—into their mitigation targets.
New Net Zero Standard. This year the SBTi Net Zero Standard will be published, including criteria for abatement (within supply chain actions); neutralization (removals for limited residual emissions); and compensation (mitigation beyond net zero). The guidance will also detail appropriate NBS opportunities for all companies. Businesses with land sector emissions can deploy NBS directly toward net zero. Companies without land sector emissions must focus first on non-NBS abatement measures to meet their SBTi targets but may adopt NBS on the path to net zero through compensation or neutralization.
With new FLAG and net zero guidance forthcoming, companies (especially those with land sector emissions in their supply chains) will have novel tools to deploy NBS to meet their near-term Science-Based Targets and their net zero targets.4
Table: NBS in Science-Based Targets.5
1 This article refers specifically to NBS for climate mitigation (not including adaptation) and specifically NBS for climate mitigation such as reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation; reducing emissions from agriculture; restoring forests; improving forest management; and enhancing soil carbon. Additional land-related mitigation actions may be relevant for companies (including sustainable diets and reducing food loss and waste) and are incorporated where relevant in SBTi even though they are not included under many definitions of NBS.
2 While GHG Protocol guidance for land sector emissions is under development, we recommend the following guidance documents for reference:
- GHG Protocol Corporate Standard, Scope 3 Standard
- GHG Protocol Product Standard
- GHG Protocol Agriculture Guidance
- GHG Protocol Guidance for GHG Project Accounting
- GHG Protocol Tool for Forestry in Brazil
- IPCC Guidelines for National GHG Inventories, 2006 & 2019 Refinement
- IPCC Good Practice Guidance for LULUCF
- ISO: ISO 14064 1:2018
- Quantis. Account for Natural Climate Solutions Guidance
- Gold Standard, Value Change Initiative – Value Chain (Scope 3) Interventions & Soil Organic Carbon Guidance
3 We use the traditional term AFOLU and the SBTi term FLAG interchangeably here.
4 Land sector emissions are expected to be handled separately from nonland emissions.
5 The guidance is in draft form and still under review, so this categorization represents our best understanding of the state of play with a low-risk approach.