Shift in UK land use needed to deliver Net Zero

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has warned that a transformation in land use across the UK is needed off the UK is to achieve its aim of becoming a net zero economy by 2050.

In its first ever in-depth advice on UK agricultural policies, the CCC presents a detailed range of options to drive emissions reductions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Land use accounted for 12 per cent of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. By 2050, with the right support, farmers and land-managers can reduce these emissions by almost two thirds.

The Committee’s in-depth analysis shows that emissions from UK land use can be reduced by 64 per cent 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.

There are five objectives for new policy: increasing UK forestry cover from 13 per cent to at least 17 per cent by 2050 by planting around 30,000 hectares of broadleaf and conifer woodland each year; encouraging low-carbon farming practices; restoring at least 50 per cent of upland peat and 25 per cent of lowland peat; encouraging bioenergy crops; and reducing food waste and consumption of the most carbon-intensive foods.

The committee’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.

Lord Deben, chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “Changing the way we use our land is critical to delivering the UK’s Net Zero target. The options we are proposing would see farmers and land managers – the stewards of the land – delivering actions to reduce emissions. 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.”