Climate Action

Sugarcane production will be affected by more frequent and extreme environmental conditions due to climate change.

How will climate change impact sugarcane?

The IPCC interactive atlas shows that some key sugarcane regions will suffer from more consecutive dry days, days with temperatures above 35 degrees and less precipitation. Research by International Sugar Organization (ISO) shows that there are varying conclusions on how increase in air temperature or atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could impact the production of sugarcane in different regions, with different predictions of positive, negative or neutral impact on yields, However, there is no current definitive global study yet concluded using the latest climatic science.

Alongside changes to production, there are significant risks for farmers too. Cutting sugarcane requires high physical exertion from workers under intense heat, which is a big health risk. Occupational heat stress is a growing problem due to climate change, causing kidney disease and in many cases, death.

As science shows, water depletion and pollution pose major risks in certain sugarcane origins, and these are exacerbated by climate change. Reductions in sugarcane yields could force people out of work which could lead to migration and poverty, apart from driving up prices of food and fuel, and disrupting entire supply chains.

GHG emissions in the sugarcane value chain

Growing sugarcane is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the sugarcane production value chain, accounting for 400 million tons of CO2 equivalent annually. The sugarcane farming phase represents around 77% of total GHG emissions of the two sugarcane productive stages (farming and processing), according to our certification database. The use of machinery, fertilisers and pesticides, and practices such as from burning cane, applying effluents to soil, irrigation, decaying leaves and land use change are the biggest contributors.

During the processing phase, emissions from processing and transporting chemical inputs, processing, treating water/effluents, and burning bagasse, a fibrous material left from crushing the cane, are the main sources of GHG emissions. The Bonsucro certification database shows that the processing phase accounts for an average of 23% of all GHG emissions of sugarcane production.

Emissions generated in the sugarcane production and processing phases should be accounted for as Scope 3, when manufacturing products using sugarcane or any of its by-products.

How will Bonsucro make a difference?

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Decarbonisation with sugarcane

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The next five years

Driving climate action in the sugarcane sector is a priority in our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan. We will facilitate mitigation efforts through certification with the aim that certified producers will reduce their scope 1 and scope 2 emissions by 30% over five years.

We will convene the sugarcane sector to develop shared sector-wide methodologies, metrics, and commitments to science-based targets for GHG emissions to meet the UNFCCC Paris Agreement 2030 targets.

To achieve these targets, we set out some priority actions in our strategic plan, such as:

  • Develop a roadmap in collaboration with members to establish collective commitments of GHG reduction aligned with UNFCCC Paris Agreement by 2030.
  • Customise the certification database so that GHG and ESG metrics can be disclosed in coordination with our members’ targets.
  • Support buyers to measure their Scope 3 emissions through certification and the Bonsucro calculator.
  • Increase the number of certified operators.
  • Finance projects that drive climate mitigation and adaptation through our Bonsucro Impact Fund, including more support for independent and smallholder farmers.
  • Foster public-private partnerships and policies that accelerate transition in the sugarcane sector.
  • Promote members’ initiatives that support the sugarcane sector to tackle climate
  • Facilitate sustainable finance opportunities for our members.
  • Produce mitigation and adaptation-related tools and guidance for sugarcane farmers and millers with focus on heat and water stress.

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Download Climate Change Fact sheet (pdf)

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