NI farmers 'must adapt to hit climate change goal'

James Marshall
January 23, 2020

The Committee on Climate Change made the recommendation in a new report calling for major and urgent changes to how land is managed to help the United Kingdom reach its legal target to cut emissions to net zero by 2050.

People should prepare to reduce their meat and dairy intake by at least a fifth over the coming decades as part of a radical overhaul of the UK's "unsustainable" approach to managing farmland, ministers have been told in a landmark report issued today by its climate advisory body.

It sets out a range of policy recommendations including planting up to 120 million trees each year to increase United Kingdom forestry cover from 13pc to 17pc, encouraging bioenergy crops and supporting low-carbon farming practices such as controlled-release fertilisers and slurry acidification to reduce ammonia emissions.

A system similar to the subsidies which have boosted renewable energy in recent years, with auctions for contracts for planting and guaranteed long-term payments for land managers, could deliver the required increase.

That would bring them down to 21MtCO2 by 2050 and deliver an £80bn benefit.

The report notes a new market-based measure to promote tree planting should be funded by a levy on greenhouse gas-emitting industries like aviation but must not be used as a way to offset other emissions and says the public must reduce food waste and consumption of emissions-intensive foods.

The CCC said Britain should restore at least 50% of its upland peat and 25% of lowland peat to capture carbon dioxide.

The committee also recommended banning the burning of grouse moors and sale of peat compost to protect the nation's bogs, which can store huge amounts of carbon.

Northern Ireland's farmers must adapt along with others in the United Kingdom to help reach a key target on climate change, a government advisory body has said.

The report also says the government must encourage low carbon farming practices such as greener fertilisers, should restore at least 50% of upland peatlands and 25% of lowland peatlands and will need to expand United Kingdom bioenergy crops to around 23,000 hectares each year.

Lord Deben, chair of the CCC, said: "This is one of the most important reports that we have ever produced because a change in land use is absolutely essential if we're going to meet [the legal] requirements of reducing to net zero by 2050".

'The options we are proposing would see farmers and land managers 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". "We are in a race against time".

National Farmers' Union (NFU) president Minette Batters welcomed the report's recognition that cutting emissions can be achieved without producing less food, or increasing imports with a higher environmental impact than goods produced in the UK.

Agriculture accounts for 12% of total United Kingdom greenhouse gas emissions.

But the Committee said such changes would be crucial for meeting the UK's statutory target to draw down greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, and that the costs of the overhaul would be more than manageable and indeed beneficial for consumers, farmers, and wider society.

Encourage low-carbon farming, such as controlled fertiliser use.

"That's why we're reforming farming policy to reward environmental actions, reviewing our food system to ensure it is more sustainable, taking steps to accelerate tree-planting and peatland restoration, and introducing a flagship Environment Bill to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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