Fonterra’s scope 3 emissions reduction target is set – but is it good enough for the climate?

On November 8, Fonterra announced a target of 30% intensity reduction in on-farm emissions – so-called scope 3 – by 2030, from a 2018 baseline. At 86%, on-farm emissions make up the most sizable part of Fonterra’s GHG footprint, and the new target is seeking to reduce their intensity by ton of fat and protein-corrected milk collected by the co-operative. This will be done in several ways – through improved herd performance and feed quality, novel technologies to tackle methane, carbon removals from vegetation, and land-use change conversions.

In highlighting some of the challenges to improving on-farm GHG emissions footprint, Fonterra chairman Peter McBride said there was ‘significant variation within and across farming systems when it comes to emissions intensity’. “There’s no one solution to reducing on-farm emissions,” he said. “It will require a combination of sharing best farming practices and technology to reduce emissions – it’s both our biggest opportunity and our biggest challenge.”

Fonterra’s scope 3 target comes after close to a year of discussions with farmers about why it was needed in the first place, and how it can be achieved. On one hand, the co-op needs to meet market expectations, with CEO Miles Hurrell stating that “the co-op needs to keep making progress to make sure it doesn’t fall behind”.

On the other hand, a scope 3 emissions target is crucial to achieving any net-zero objectives. As Kite Consulting sustainability expert Hayley Campbell-Gibbons told DairyReporter, “Net zero targets are an end-goal to scope 3 reduction targets and efforts. What’s crucial is that any company’s net zero target must include all emissions scopes. The vast majority of any large food company’s emissions lie in their scope 3, so any target that doesn’t seek to address this is largely pointless.”