Commodity traders must take action beyond the Agriculture Sector Roadmap to achieve a true 1.5°C pathway

At the start of COP27 this week, 14 major agricultural commodity traders and processors released an Agriculture Sector Roadmap to 1.5°C. The release follows the traders’ corporate statement of purpose issued at COP26 last year committing to “lay out a shared roadmap for enhanced supply chain action consistent with a 1.5 degrees Celsius pathway.”

The roadmap – which addresses palm oil, soy, cattle, and cocoa – marks some positive steps forward. These include increased attention to implementation mechanisms, such as traceability and monitoring systems, as well as new investment in production landscapes. It builds on recent successes in the palm sector, and contains a key commitment in the cattle sector to eliminate all deforestation in the Amazon by 2025. Also welcome is a move toward greater transparency and disclosure using credible metrics and platforms.

However, the roadmap does not meet its primary aim of defining enhanced action in line with a 1.5 degree future as it does not set forth a plan to eliminate land use change at a rapid enough pace or with a broad enough scope. The gaps are especially large in the roadmap’s implementation plan for the soy sector, which represents a step backward for many of the signatories.

According to the IPCC, plausible pathways to achieving 1.5°C goals require that carbon emissions from the entire land sector reach net zero by or before 2030. This includes the near-term elimination (well prior to 2030) of emissions from all land use change, including deforestation as well as conversion of wetlands, peatlands, savannas, and natural grasslands. In the context of corporate supply chains, this means that actions required for a 1.5°C pathway must include eliminating deforestation and ecosystem conversion associated with agricultural and forest commodities.

What’s more, for companies that produce and trade commodities such as soy and cattle, conversion of non-forest ecosystems makes up the majority of the land use change emissions associated with their sourcing in the Cerrado, Chaco, and Pampa. It is also a large part of the total land use change emissions in their supply chains. This underscores the importance of explicitly including avoided conversion as part of a credible 1.5°C pathway for these sectors.

Finally, while eliminating deforestation and conversion from supply chains must be a central part of these companies’ climate plans, action in line with 1.5°C must also include emissions reduction and carbon removals from land management. Such activities should be included in companies’ climate action goals and strategies. SBTi FLAG provides a robust methodology for determining the level of reductions necessary in these areas.

Companies can still demonstrate leadership

Traders still have the opportunity to set their businesses on a 1.5°C pathway by defining supply chain action that is more ambitious than the collective roadmap. Key gaps in the roadmap’s plans for soy and cattle can be filled by committing to actions that many of these same companies are already taking.

In the biomes that are currently most threatened by commodity expansion, no-conversion supply chains can be clearly specified using existing legitimate definitions and satellite-based monitoring tools. In fact, the Soft Commodities Forum, of which many of these traders are members, already uses such definitions and tools to assess and reduce native vegetation conversion in their own sustainability reporting processes.

As the basis for a true 1.5°C pathway:

  • Each roadmap signatory should set an emissions reduction target for all land sector emissions using the SBTi FLAG guidance or an equivalent methodology for 2030 target setting with a 1.5°C trajectory.
  • Companies operating in the cattle and soy sectors should:
    • Commit now to achieve no-conversion of all natural ecosystems in biomes most threatened by relevant commodity production by 2025.
    • Commit now to achieve no-conversion across all origins in advance of 2030.
  • Companies in the soy sector should include in their commitments appropriate cutoff dates, including a cutoff date for the Amazon that aligns with the Amazon Soy Moratorium, and for ecosystem conversion in other biomes that is no later than the date the commitment is issued. Notably, palm and cattle sector plans in the roadmap specify suitable cutoff dates.

How the Accountability Framework can help

Representing broad consensus from civil society and other key stakeholders, the Accountability Framework offers companies detailed guidance on setting strong goals, taking effective action, and accounting for land use change and associated emissions as part of their broader emissions reduction goals. It also guides the establishment of effective policies and implementation systems to achieve supply chains that fully respect the human rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and workers. For support using the Accountability Framework, please get in touch.

See statements on the Agriculture Sector Roadmap to 1.5°C from AFi coalition members

Global Canopy

Mighty Earth

The Nature Conservancy