A report out today number of sheep and cattle in the UK should be reduced by between a fifth and a half to help combat climate change.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) which advises the government on climate change says that fundamental reform is required to ensure land becomes a more effective carbon store.
The critical services we receive from the land; clean water, healthy soils, wildlife, timber and food, are threatened by a warming climate they say, adding that the Government can address these concerns, while ensuring sufficient food production for an increasing population and space for new homes.
Under the Common Agricultural Policy and its predecessors, food production has been rewarded over other services that the land can provide.
Change provides the opportunity to maximise the use of land as a natural store for carbon and as a regulator of natural hazards such as flooding.
The CCC says a 20-50% reduction in beef and lamb pasture could release 3-7m hectares of grassland from the current 12m hectares in the UK.
New land-use policy must promote radically different uses of UK land to support deeper emissions reductions and improve resilience to climate change impacts.
This includes increased tree planting, improved forest management, restoration of peatlands, and shifts to low-carbon farming practices, which improve soil and water quality.
These will help to reduce flood risk and improve the condition of semi-natural habitats such as woodlands and we
Alternative uses of land can be economic for farmers and land managers, but Government must provide help for them to transition.
Assistance is needed with skills, training and information to implement new uses of land.
Support for high up-front costs and financing to aid that transition are also required. Land managers must have better access to information about the impacts of a changing climate.
Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), said:
“Land is our most precious natural asset but the way we use land in this country needs fundamental reform. We must ensure our use of land helps to reduce the emissions that are warming our atmosphere. We must also improve the resilience of the land to climate change. New legislation on agriculture and the environment provide us with a unique opportunity to reward land owners and farmers for actions such as tree planting, restoring peatlands and improving soil and water quality.