This report compiled by the Committee on Climate Change was
released at the end of June. This is
the Committee’s first report to the new Parliament on the progress we are
making towards meeting the UK’s emissions reductions targets.
Reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate
change provide the opportunity to drive innovation, support growth, contribute
to improved health, develop effective and resilient infrastructure and minimise
the disruptions caused by flooding, water scarcity and other climate change
The full report is available to view here, along with broken
down technical reports into each of the main areas that have been studied. These areas are electricity, buildings
transport, infrastructure and land and water management. Unsurprisingly I will be concentrating for
the rest of this report on the information regarding agriculture, but if you
are interested there is much more information on the others here.
What’s in the report?
The report deals with three things:
As assessment of progress to date to reduce GHG emissions
and prepare for the impact of climate change including recommended actions
A more detailed report on the progress to date towards
meeting C budgets and the UK’s statutory targets to reduce emissions in 2050 by
at least 80% from 1990 levels.
Details on progress being made to prepare for and adapt to
the impacts of climate change.
What are the main recommendations for agriculture?
The overarching recommendation is to preserve and enhance
the country’s natural capital in order to sustain agricultural productivity in
a changing climate, maximise Carbon sequestration and safeguard the natural
Within the report there are firm measures to preserve
fertility and organic content or agricultural soils to achieve the goal of all
soils to be sustainably managed by 2030.
As well as this, it is recommended to accelerate efforts to restore
natural assets and counter long term declines in ecological conditions of the
farm countryside, and review effectiveness of agri-environment schemes in
controlling protected peat land sites that are of international importance in
terms of their natural capital.
Climate change and the UK
The report concludes that the global climate is
changing. Sea levels have risen about
20cm and the average surface temperature has risen by 0.8%. Greenhouse gas emissions affect lives in the
UK. Action is needed in this Parliament
to ensure the pace of emissions reductions accelerates whilst still supporting economic
What action do we need?
Targeted and coordinated actions to adapt to climate change
and reduce emissions are needed.
Decisions in the new parliament will largely determine how much progress
is made to 2030 and beyond. The
Committee for Climate Change have recommended five main actions for parliament
during this time.
Electricity – ensure the power sector can invest with a 10
year lead time
Buildings – Develop plans and policies that deliver low
carbon heat and energy efficiency, whilst also addressing the increasing risk
of heat stress and flooding
Transport – maintain support for the up-front costs of
Infrastructure – make decisions that help reduce emissions
and improve the resilience of infrastructure networks and services during
periods of extreme weather
Agriculture, land and water management- preserve and enhance
the country’s natural capital
Emissions reductions progress – provisional emissions for
2014 indicate that UK domestic GHG emissions were 520 MtCo2e. This is an 8% decrease compared with
2013. Emissions are now 36% below 1990
levels. This large reduction across the
economy was driven by falls in emissions from buildings, industry and power
generation, many of which reflect one-off changes and uncertain factors rather
than replicable trends. Also it is
important to point out at this stage that emissions estimates for agriculture,
waste and other non CO2 sources are not yet available.
Three priority areas (these aren’t agriculture specific)
Low carbon investment – many low carbon policies and funding
streams have no certainty beyond the new few years, which prevents efficient
investment in low carbon technologies and their supply chains which often have
long lead times and payback periods.
Developing future options and innovations – many of the
technologies that could contribute to meeting the 2050 target are still
developing in terms of cost and performance.
Governments need to maintain a clear future market for low carbon
Low carbon choices – how lifestyles continue to change and
people make decisions will continue to determine whether we continue to reduce
What are the adaptation priorities for agriculture?
Improving the fertility of agricultural soils
Improving / maintaining the ecological condition
of the farmed countryside
Water demand by agriculture
Flooding of agricultural land
Innovation / knowledge transfer; sharing of
ideas and best practice
Maintaining / improving the ecological condition
of terrestrial habitats (as well as freshwater, riparian and marine environment
The deal with soils
This report makes a big deal on soils, and concludes that
soil erosion and the loss of organic carbon is an important issue. It continues, “Agricultural soils are being
degraded by intensive farming practices in some areas with deep ploughing,
short rotations and exposed ground leading to soil erosion from wind and heavy
rain. Although the soil erosion risk may
be decreasing, the rate of loss is not sustainable as soil takes a long time to
form. Water shortages and drier soil
conditions put the profitability of farming in some areas at risk, reducing the
productivity of UK farming.”
There is a governmental ambition for all soils to be used
sustainably by 2030. At the moment this
initiative is in its ‘evidence gathering’ phase until 2016 at which point it
will be followed by a plan of action.
What happens now?
This report outlines how the committee on climate change
considers the best way to be to reduce emissions and prepare for climate change
cost effectively. The progress against
these goals will be reviewed in 2016 and the government needs to respond to
this report by October of this year (as well as work at how it is going to make
up the shortfall for the 4th Carbon budget (2023 – 27).
What are the recommendations for agriculture?
Deliver the Smart Inventory
Defra is working to better understand and measure how
biological systems and different farming practices impact on emissions. This will allow for a more sophisticated
methodology for measuring, reporting and verifying emissions.
Strengthen the current voluntary approach to reduce
Assess the effectiveness of the current Greenhouse gas
action plan (GHGAP) scheme which is an industry led initiative which sets out
how the agricultural industry is responding to the challenges of feeding a
growing population with less impact.
Co-ordinate efforts across four nations
Ensuring that measures being implemented across the four
nations are feasible, cost effective and consistent with low carbon
budgets. No mean feat!
So watch this space to see what happens next. In the meantime to find out what you can do to reduce GHGs on your farm and improve efficiency and profit; why
not check out the Toolkit?