A landscape of cut-down trees, highlighting the environmental consequences related to emissions and the importance of understanding SBTi FLAG emissions

Navigating the evolving landscape of sustainability is essential for businesses looking to make a meaningful impact in the fight against climate change. At McGrady Clarke, we aim to demystify these critical issues for our global clients.

Today, we delve into the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) Forest, Land, and Agriculture Guidance, known as FLAG emissions.


What are FLAG Emissions? 

The SBTi’s FLAG Guidance offers the world’s first standard methodology for companies in land-intensive sectors to set science-based targets, which include land-based emissions reductions and removals. This critical framework is a response to the vast amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by agriculture, forestry, and other land uses, accounting for 22% of global emissions. 

For perspective, the forest, land, and agriculture sector is second only to the energy industry in terms of its GHG emissions. Simultaneously, it is among the industries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Thus, addressing land-related emissions is a paramount task in keeping global warming to 1.5°C, mitigating food crisis risks, and fostering a global net-zero future. 


The SBTi FLAG Guidance: A New Methodology

The SBTi’s FLAG Guidance provides land-intensive sectors with a robust, science-based framework to determine the extent and rate of necessary land-related emissions reductions. This aligns with the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C. 

The Guidance introduces several key requirements for businesses: 

  • Near-term FLAG science-based targets: Companies are to set emission reduction targets for the next 5-10 years, in line with the 1.5°C warming limit.
  • Accounting for removals in near-term targets: These removals can include improved forest management practices and enhancing soil carbon sequestration on working lands.
  • Long-term FLAG science-based targets: By 2050, businesses in the forest, land, and agriculture sectors should reduce at least 72% of emissions. The SBTi Net-Zero Standard is to be used for setting long-term targets.
  • Zero deforestation targets: These must be set for no later than 2025, aligning with the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi).
  • Science-based targets for fossil emissions: Businesses with land-based emissions must also set targets for fossil emissions, as all companies produce these.


The Future of Land-Intensive Industries and Climate Action 

Understanding and managing SBTi FLAG emissions is not just about environmental stewardship; it’s also about future-proofing businesses. Climate change presents significant risks, but also opportunities for proactive businesses. 

Companies that align their operations with global warming limits will be better positioned to thrive in the impending low-carbon economy. They will also reap reputational benefits, as consumers and investors increasingly gravitate towards businesses that demonstrate responsible environmental practices.

A construction site, representing the industrial activities that contribute to emissions and emphasising the need to understand SBTi FLAG emissions

How We Can Help

At McGrady Clarke, we assist businesses in understanding and implementing the SBTi’s FLAG Guidance. A crucial part of this guidance is the 20% threshold, designed to ensure that companies with substantial emissions are included in FLAG target setting. It acts as a buffer, excluding companies with limited FLAG-related emissions from onerous reporting requirements. This threshold is based on gross emissions, meaning removals are not factored in. 

Recently, the SBTi has been proactive in reaching out to businesses through mass emails, emphasising the importance of FLAG emissions and the necessity of science-based targets. As the world grapples with the reality of climate change, these communications underscore the urgency of adopting sustainable practices. 

We help companies measure and monitor their emissions, pinpointing whether they cross the critical 20% threshold and necessitate comprehensive FLAG target setting. Our team identifies opportunities for improvement and crafts practical, effective solutions tailored to each company’s unique circumstance. 

We aid businesses in setting and tracking progress against science-based targets, ensuring that our partners are not only meeting but exceeding their climate commitments. Leveraging our extensive expertise in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainability strategy, we provide customised solutions to help businesses reduce their environmental footprint, in alignment with the SBTi’s FLAG Guidance and the crucial 20% threshold. In response to SBTi’s recent communications, we stand ready to guide businesses through this crucial transition towards more sustainable operations. 

Book a consultation with one of our experts today to discuss how we can help you.