Capturing the opportunities of natural climate solutions

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Natural climate solutions offer solutions to mitigate climate change.

This article is sponsored by Quantis.

Through actions such as reforestation or regenerative agriculture, businesses can work with nature to help mitigate climate change — not just to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but to draw down carbon from the atmosphere. Companies in the land sector that tap into these natural climate solutions gain key levers in reaching their corporate carbon reduction goals.

"Simply put, most of the plants and soil in our environment are made up of carbon, so when we remove those things, and degrade the soil, that carbon goes back into the atmosphere," explained Jon Dettling, global director of services and innovation at Quantis, during the GreenBiz-Quantis webcast on this topic in mid-November. "But natural climate solutions offer us opportunities to reverse that trend and draw more carbon into the soil, into the vegetation."

Natural climate solutions build value chain resilience

Companies all over the world are harnessing natural climate solutions such as preventing deforestation, facilitating reforestation, improving soil health, promoting sustainable land management practices and other methods of using nature’s ecosystems as a tool for addressing climate change. These natural climate solutions have the potential for a big impact: 37 percent of the necessary CO2e mitigation between now and 2030 for a "well-below 2 degrees" world can come from natural solutions.

Natural climate solutions aren’t just critical for addressing climate change, they also offer benefits for water stewardship, ecosystem management and biodiversity. With as many as one in four species on Earth at risk of extinction, protecting biodiversity is vitally important. "Many of the projects that we are using to restore our land can also restore the critical habitat that is so important to this biodiversity problem," Dettling said during the recent GreenBiz-Quantis webcast.

Businesses know that reaching their climate targets takes a massive team effort. This is especially true for natural climate solutions. Climate teams, forestry teams, sourcing teams and suppliers across the value chain collaborate together to achieve shared goals. These projects break down department silos and build stronger relationships with suppliers. Bottom line, it’s building resilience in more ways than one.

Barry Callebaut tackles deforestation with satellite imagery and farm-level data

One company using natural climate solutions to meet its corporate carbon goals is Barry Callebaut, one of the largest suppliers for chocolate companies.

Three years ago, the company launched "Forever Chocolate," a strategy intended to ensure that its supply chain is child labor-free and carbon-positive by 2025. Further, the strategy focuses on actions to help farmers thrive by 2025. One way Barry Callebaut is working to end deforestation in its supply chain is by planting shade trees during the production process to help sequester carbon (PDF). Quantis and Barry Callebaut partnered on an innovative carbon accounting project that combines satellite data and carbon footprint methodology. This new methodology gave Barry Callebaut a much more granular and science-based understanding and measurement of its land-use change impacts, so it can work with farmers on targeted improvements.

Reporting on land-related carbon impacts soon will become required

Land-related impacts can represent a significant portion of a company’s value chain emissions, especially for agriculture and forestry-based industries. Yet most companies do not yet account for these impacts in their carbon footprints. Indeed, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate and Value Chain (Scope 3) Standards — the greenhouse gas accounting standards used by more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies — do not currently require reporting on these. That’s changing fast.

"We found that many companies where these activities are relevant are not accounting for these activities," said David Rich, a senior associate at WRI, during the GreenBiz-Quantis webcast. "Some do, but many do not. So, we asked why, what are the barriers to companies accounting for this in their greenhouse gas inventories and reporting? And among the top responses was lack of guidance, lack of data, and they’re not required to by programs or standards. But the main barrier was a lack of guidance." 

That’s why Quantis convened more than 40 organizations, including leading companies in land-based industries, to produce the Accounting for Natural Climate Solutions Guidance. The guidance provides a straightforward way for companies to measure their land-related greenhouse gas impacts, and includes case studies of major companies using these approaches, such as General Mills and Ikea.

WRI is planning to publish both a Carbon Removal Standard and a Land Sector Guidance in 2021, leveraging the methodology in Quantis’ Accounting for Natural Climate Solutions Guidance to shape the new standard. At that point, accounting for these impacts will become standard practice. With these developments on the horizon, companies that start now can focus their climate action efforts where the impacts are greatest and seize the opportunity to become leaders on the new frontier.

Forests, soils, agriculture and land are essential partners as we address the climate crisis together. Quantis is excited to help companies focus their efforts where they matter most and guide them along their natural climate solutions journey.