Nature’s Biggest Carbon Sinks
Agriculture and forestry are responsible for more than 20% of global GHG emissions.
Companies, NGOs and suppliers are working together on the most cost-effective ways of reducing global emissions from this sector: planting trees, halting deforestation and improving soil health.
“To curb climate change, we must address the second-greatest source of emissions: our use of land. By taking concrete action, businesses and local leaders also can encourage national governments to more aggressively reduce carbon emissions using every resource available, including trees, grasses and soil.”
The global livestock industry alone is responsible for around 14.5% of global emissions. In Australia, livestock farmers are becoming carbon neutral by introducing large-scale tree planting to their grazing land and investing in plantation timber farming. Meanwhile, McDonald’s has been working with WWF to reduce deforestation in the company’s supply chain. Together they have worked to identify the company’s highest risk commodities including beef, palm oil and soy, and partner with suppliers in at-risk regions.
Improving soil health also plays an important role in global carbon sequestration. Healthy soil is composed of microbes as well as decaying plant and animal matter. Farming techniques such as monocropping combined with the overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are contributing to climate change by increasing the erosion of topsoil and killing off the microorganisms that enable soil to serve as a natural carbon sink.
Large companies are reaping both the GHG and production benefits of working with suppliers to improve soil health. Unilever’s Sustainable Agriculture Code requires suppliers to work with smallholder famers in the company’s supply chain to develop climate-smart soil management strategies that increase the carbon storage of soil, improve water retention and boost agricultural productivity.
Food and agricultural companies are embracing the importance of reforestation and regenerative farming practices not only to help reverse the impacts of climate change through the natural sequestration of carbon into trees and healthy soils, but also as a way to increase the climate resiliency of agricultural supply chains. Planting trees has the benefit of reducing soil erosion during heavy rains and droughts, while improving soil health simultaneously increases water retention and drought resilience.