Britons must reduce the consumption of beef, lamb and dairy by at least 20% per person, and cut their annual food waste by 13.6 million tonnes.
Those are just two of the recommendations out today in a major report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in its first ever in-depth advice on UK agricultural policies.
In 2017, land use – including agriculture, forestry and peatland – accounted for 12% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions. By 2050, with the right support, farmers and land-managers can reduce these emissions by almost two thirds. This transition is necessary for Net Zero, it will create net benefits for the UK and leave our land more resilient to the changing climate.
The Committee’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.
There are five objectives for new policy:
Increase tree planting by increasing UK forestry cover from 13% to at least 17% by 2050 by planting around 30,000 hectares (90 – 120 million trees) of broadleaf and conifer woodland each year.
Encourage low-carbon farming practices – such as ‘controlled-release’ fertilisers, improving livestock health and slurry acidification.
Restore peatlands – restoring at least 50% of upland peat and 25% of lowland peat.
Encourage bioenergy crops – expanding UK energy crops to around 23,000 hectares each year.
Reduce food waste and consumption of the most carbon-intensive foods – reduce the 13.6 million tonnes of food waste produced annually by 20% and the consumption of beef, lamb and dairy by at least 20% per person, well within current healthy eating guidelines.
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.
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.”