A reduction in red meat and dairy and a transformation in land use is required for the UK to reach its aim of becoming a net zero economy by 2050, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said.
By 2050, with the right support, farmers and land-managers can reduce these emissions by almost two thirds. CCC said the transition is “necessary for net zero” and will create net benefits for the UK and leave our land more resilient to the changing climate.
In its first-ever advice on UK agricultural policies, the public body presents a detailed range of options to drive emissions reductions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The report is published at a time of significant change, as the UK leaves the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy.
In Westminster, new Agriculture and Environment Bills are being introduced this month, with similar legislation is planned in Scotland and Wales.
“The options we are proposing would see farmers and land managers – the stewards of the land – delivering actions to reduce emissions,” said Lord Deben, CCC Chairman.
“Doing so can provide new revenue opportunities for farmers, better air quality and improved biodiversity, and more green spaces for us all to enjoy. But major changes are required and action from government is needed quickly if we are to reap the rewards.”
CCC’s in-depth analysis shows that emissions from UK land use can be reduced by 64% to around 21 MtCO2e by 2050. The report demonstrates that this can be achieved without producing less food in the UK or increasing imports from elsewhere.
In order to achieve net zero, the report outlines five objectives: increase tree planting; encourage low-carbon farming practices; restore peatlands; encourage bioenergy crops, and reduce food waste and consumption of most carbon-intensive foods.
It says that that the consumption of beef, lamb and dairy needs to be reduce “by at least 20% per person”.
The Committee is proposing a mix of regulations and incentives to drive these changes and provide land managers with the long-term clarity they need. The actions identified would release around one-fifth of agricultural land for actions that reduce emissions and store carbon, it said.
CCC’s assessment shows that these measures carry a total cost of around £1.4 billion per year, generating wider benefits of £4 billion per year. Much of this funding can be provided privately – the total cost should be met through a combination of public and private funding. This will be a key consideration for the Treasury in its Net Zero Review of costs. At present, the UK deploys £3.3 billion each year through the Common Agricultural Policy.