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UK farming industry responds to new climate change report

This week, the Committee for Climate Change published its report, Land use: Policies for a Net Zero UK. NFU President Minette Batters responds to the landmark report.

26 January 2020, at 10:00am

The report presents the CCC’s first ever in-depth advice on UK agricultural and land use policies. The report assesses the way we use our land today and the changes required in how we farm and use land in order to deliver the UK Government’s Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050.

Key findings

Net Zero requires a transformation in land use across the UK. The report sets out a detailed range of options to drive emissions reductions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • Increase tree planting – increasing UK forestry cover from 13 percent to at least 17 percent 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 percent of upland peat and 25 percent of lowland peat.
  • Encourage bioenergy crops – expand the planting of 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 percent and the consumption of beef, lamb and dairy by at least 20 percent per person, well within current healthy eating guidelines.

Responding to the new report, NFU President Minette Batters said: “I’m pleased to see the report acknowledge that British farming produces some of the most sustainable food in the world, highlighting that emissions from UK beef is half that of the global average. The report also emphasises that we can’t risk importing food with a higher carbon footprint than food which has been produced in the UK.

“A comprehensive approach across the whole UK economy is needed, and when it comes to farming we need to focus on the whole agricultural system. In the NFU’s own plans for net zero agriculture, planting trees and hedgerows to increase carbon stores on farmland play a crucial part, alongside increasing productivity – producing more from less – to deliver low-carbon farming as well as boosting renewable energy and bioenergy production.

“When talking about changing diets, plant-based products do not always necessarily have a lower impact on the environment. It all depends on where and how the ingredients have been produced, the environmental pressures involved in its production, the environmental management associated with that country’s agricultural system and the environmental resources available, as well as how far the product has travelled.

“65 percent of British land is only suitable for grazing livestock and we have the right climate to produce high quality red meat and dairy. Therefore it makes sense that, when talking about environmental impact, as the report suggests, the public continues to support British livestock production.

“This is not just about reducing domestic and global greenhouse gas emissions, but protecting our natural environment as well. Water is the world’s most valuable resource but it is coming under pressure. In the UK, we have the means to manage our water far better, and we need to see this replicated in government policy.

“We can also be far more ambitious when it comes to cutting food waste. The NFU believes the UK should be aiming for a 50 percent waste reduction throughout the whole food supply chain, which would also relieve pressure on people to make dietary changes.

“I believe British farmers are very much part of the solution. We want to be the model for climate-friendly food production around the world – food production that continues to include nutritious beef, lamb and dairy products for the world to enjoy as part of a healthy, balanced diet.”