The Committee on Climate Change's first in-depth report on the contribution of land use to achieving net zero has been released, proposing a suite of objectives:
- More tree planting: no surprise here, but we now have some numbers, and the CCC suggests that around 30,000 hectares (90 – 120 million trees) of broadleaf and conifer woodland will need to be planted each year from now until 2050.
- Changes to farming practice: the way that we farm must change, with focus on improving livestock health and 'controlled-release' fertilisers.
- Peatland restoration: again, not a surprise, as this has been the direction of travel for a while, but the figures are significant. The CCC recommends restoring at least 50% of upland peat and 25% of lowland peat.
- Encourage bioenergy crops: the role of bioenergy crops has been a point of debate. The CCC considers bioenergy crops to be an important part of the solution and recommends expanding UK energy crops to around 23,000 hectares each year.
- Eat less meat and waste less food: grabbing most of the headlines is the section about the food we all eat. Wasting less food is not contentious (although still difficult to solve, with 13.6 millions tonnes of food waste each year to tackle). More contentiously, on the question of diet, the CCC concludes that beef, lamb and dairy consumption must drop by 20% per person. On the BBC's Today Programme on the morning of the release of the report, Lord Deben was confident that this would be achieved through voluntary lifestyle choices ("the World has changed"), but the CCC has not ruled out other measures such as using fiscal policy to change behaviour.
There is lots to think about and over the coming weeks we will be working with clients and contacts to consider the legal and policy issues arising from the report's conclusions.
One final thought on the international agenda: As Davos considers world trade, sustainability and climate change, and as the UK gears up for trade negotiations, it is clear that the UK cannot simply export its carbon at the cost of UK farming. As Lord Deben said in his BBC Today Programme interview, the UK cannot compromise on this issue in its trade negotiations. How that stands up to the pressure of securing trade deals in short time periods remains to be seen.
Changing the way we use our land is critical to delivering the UK’s Net Zero target