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A recent article in SBTi’s beyond value chain mitigation (BVCM) series outlines rapid and no-regrets steps that companies can take to reduce emissions outside their value chains to contribute to a global net zero society.

SBTi’s Net-Zero Standard is the leading framework for setting net-zero targets based on climate science. While setting out clear reduction requirements for direct and indirect emissions controlled by a company (i.e. Scope 1 and 2 emissions), which must be prioritised, the Standard also recommends that companies take urgent action to address other indirect emissions generated along the corporate value chain (i.e. Scope 3 emissions).

The article outlines three steps for companies to immediately scale up investment and action that leads to the avoidance or removal of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through BVCM:

1. Understand the mitigation hierarchy: Avoiding emissions is critical right now, and companies should prioritise preventing the degradation of natural carbon sinks (e.g. terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems) in the short term. Carbon dioxide removals (CDR) are necessary to neutralise residual emissions at the net zero target date, and should be invested in as part of a company’s longer-term decarbonisation strategy.

2. Prioritise tropical rainforests and peatlands when conserving and restoring natural carbon sinks: Some 3.75 million hectares of tropical forests were destroyed in 2021 releasing 2.5 Gt CO2, which is more than the annual emissions of India. There are no current decarbonisation trajectories for staying below 1.5°C without protecting the world’s forests. Indeed, responsible land use management could provide 30% of the mitigation needed by 2030. However, while tropical forests and peatlands constitute less than 7% and 1%, respectively, of the Earth’s terrestrial surface, they are significant carbon sinks but receive only 3% of global climate finance.

3. Scale quality, permanent CDR and storage: While CDR is no substitute for deep decarbonisation, the latest IPCC report notes that “deployment of CDR to counterbalance hard-to-abate residual emissions is unavoidable if net zero CO2 or GHG emissions are to be achieved”. Currently, we struggle to remove 100,000 t CO2 per year, yet we need to remove 5–16 billion tons per year to achieve net zero by 2050. In addition to restoration and enhance of natural carbon sinks, companies should support nascent removal technologies, including quality biochar, enhanced weathering, mineralization, direct air capture (DAC) and biomass carbon removal and storage (BiCRS) projects, to address this deficit long term.

Companies have a significant contribution to make to climate mitigation through BVCM. These steps can be supported through the voluntary carbon market (VCM), enabling companies to offset interim emissions in the short-term and residual emissions in the long term while investing in crucial nature-based and technology-based solutions.

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