In 2019, the UK government adopted the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) recommendation to reduce UK emissions of greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050. This requires at least a 100% reduction in emissions compared with 1990 levels and necessitates significant action across all sectors.
The land use change and agricultural sector is particularly important for climate change mitigation, given that it is a key contributor of greenhouse gas emissions and a fundamental part of the solution for carbon capture and sequestration in soil and plants.
RSK company ADAS was part of a consortium led by Vivid Economics that the CCC commissioned to identify a range of policy options to drive emission reductions and carbon removal within existing agricultural systems and alternative land uses.
The work included a review of existing literature; an examination of the track record of existing global policies; a criteria-based assessment of policy options; and compiling case studies and information from the consultants and CCC’s teams and many land-based industry and nature experts through discussions and knowledge sharing.
The measures considered included higher afforestation rates; planting trees on farmland (agroforestry) and lengthening hedgerows; restoring upland and lowland peatland; management practices and technologies on-farm for reducing non-carbon-dioxide emissions from soil; livestock, waste and manure management; and planting perennial energy crops.
Owing to the complex nature of carbon sources and sinks in the agriculture and land use sectors and the significant barriers to uptake (both financial and non-financial), the recommendations of the research team included a broad set of policy instruments.
The outputs gave the CCC policy instruments and options to inform its first in-depth report providing advice on UK agricultural and land use policies. The subsequent CCC report provided an assessment of how land is currently used and what changes would be required to deliver the UK government’s net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050.