Land use change (LUC), which is the conversion of parcels of land from one use to another, for example, from natural habitat to arable land for crop production, can contribute to climate change through the direct production of greenhouse gas emissions including methane from ruminants and the release of carbon from soil through cultivation.
In 2016, the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) commissioned RSK company ADAS to review the evidence base on land use drivers, metrics and models to inform an assessment of the implications of LUC for climate change mitigation and adaptation actions. Climate change affects both demand and supply by incentivising other land uses such as forestry, energy crops or flood management and limiting the areas available for productive agriculture through water access issues, extreme weather events, etc.
The drivers for LUC can be indirect or direct and affect both the demand for and supply of land. They are influenced indirectly by other drivers, including demographics, economics, socio-politics, culture and technology. The interaction between different demands reflects the tension between productive agriculture and the provision of wider ecosystem services and meeting demand for food, transport, housing, etc.
The research for the CCC involved developing a conceptual framework for assessing land use for agriculture, forestry and semi-natural habitats from a climate change mitigation and adaptation perspective. The work comprised a desk-based review of metrics and datasets to develop indicators; a review of existing models to understand the modelling capabilities available for assessing the impacts of LUC on climate change mitigation and adaptation; and a stakeholder workshop to explore the pathways to a net-zero-emissions scenario from UK agriculture and land use after 2050.
The research provided the CCC with an initial scoping study to inform its land use work programme, including an assessment of the current evidence about how UK land is used and measured; the different drivers and the relevant metrics and indicators necessary to monitor LUC and management; and a review of the available land use and land use impact models.