Science-based targets in sugarcane

Creating a collective pathway for GHG mitigation

To avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must nearly halve by 2030, and drop to net zero by 2050 (IPCC).

Every sector needs to play its part in this effort. Working with our members and partners, Bonsucro is leading the development of the Sugarcane Pathway – targets and tools that will help companies in the sugarcane sector to reduce their emissions in line with what’s needed to maintain a stable climate.


Why develop science-based targets in sugarcane?

 A growing number of companies have made commitments to net-zero emissions and to supporting the Paris Agreement on climate change. Many have set credible targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions following the guidance of the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and WWF.

The SBTi has recently launched its Forest, Land and Agriculture (FLAG) guidance to enable companies operating in land-intensive sectors like food, agriculture and forestry to set science-based standards. This fills an important gap, since deforestation and other land-related impacts account for nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, and represent a significant part of many businesses’ climate footprint. Land-based sectors can also make a big contribution to tackling climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – for example by increasing the amount of carbon stored in the soil. 

Within FLAG guidance the SBTi has developed mitigation pathways for various commodities, including beef, corn, soy, palm oil and timber, with the aim of reducing overall emissions in land-based sectors by 35% between 2020 and 2030. At the moment, though, it has no plans to develop specific guidance for the sugarcane sector. So Bonsucro is stepping in.

science-based targets in sugarcane

What can we do?

We want to lead the development of a FLAG mitigation pathway for the sugarcane sector to drive down emissions in line with science and the goals of the Paris Agreement. This involves calculating a baseline of current land-based emissions per kilo of sugarcane production, looking at projected future production, then setting ambitious but achievable targets for reducing these emissions over the coming years.


We’ll develop shared, sector-wide methodologies and metrics for monitoring FLAG-related carbon emissions and removals. This will enable companies that operate within the sugarcane value chain to set science-based targets covering scope 1 (direct), scope 2 (indirect) and scope 3 (supply chain) emissions in sugarcane production up to the farm gate.

Following the same structure as SBTi’s existing work in other sectors, we aim to produce guidance on setting science-based targets, and a tool to help companies do so. The tool will be available both as an Excel spreadsheet and embedded within the Bonsucro calculator. It will cover all sources of greenhouse gas emissions from sugarcane production, as well as carbon removals on sugarcane plantations and emissions savings from using sugarcane derivatives such as ethanol and biogas.


What happens next?

We aim to develop the mitigation pathway over the coming year with sustainability consultants Quantis, who’ve been involved in developing similar pathways in other sectors. They’ll review the data and the science and consult with experts to come up with a draft pathway, guidance and tool. We are fine-tuning these by carrying out pilot testing and a public consultation (running until 7 August 2023), before finalising and launching them towards the end of 2023.

Once the tool is launched, all sugarcane producers and companies throughout the value chain will be able to use it to set and achieve comprehensive science-based targets.

We’re really excited to be putting together this practical roadmap for the sugarcane sector to play its part in addressing the climate emergency – and we’d love you to get involved.

We held webinars outlining the work plan for the project. You can catch up here.

This project has been made possible by financial support from the Bonsucro Impact Fund through its Strategic Investment Budget.  

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Bonsucro is committed to working with members and partners to mitigate climate change and help producing communities become more resilient.

Learn more about climate action in sugarcane.

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