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UK farming and nature

Sustainable farming could deliver emissions cuts equivalent to taking an extra 900,000 cars off the road
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Two beautiful Limousin cows on the high fells near Keld in North Yorkshire, facing forward.

UK governments must urgently deliver decarbonisation strategies for the farming and land use sectors if the UK is to hit crucial climate targets, a landmark new report from WWF has found.

The ‘Land of Plenty’ report highlights the missed opportunity of the Westminster Net Zero Strategy to provide a strong vision and detail on tackling emissions from farming and land use. It identifies similar gaps in plans for Wales and Scotland as new legislation comes forward.

This is despite the fact that the farming and land use sectors are responsible for 12% of the UK’s territorial carbon emissions and are major contributors to the UK’s global environmental footprint.

Regenerative farming

Land of Plenty finds that nature-friendly and regenerative approaches to farming could deliver far greater emissions reductions than previously estimated by the UK’s Climate Change Committee, equivalent to taking an extra 900,000 cars off the road.

These farming methods could also help to curb the global environmental footprint of UK food production.

With the right incentives from governments, these approaches also have the potential to help to protect and restore critical habitats – from flower-rich meadows to fragile peatlands – and support the recovery of threatened species like the grey partridge, tree sparrow and turtle dove, which have declined by at least 90% in the last 50 years.

‘If we are serious about tackling the twin threats of climate change and nature loss, farming and land use can’t be an afterthought. Many UK farmers are already using their skills and expertise to produce food as sustainably as possible, but they won’t be able to fix a broken system on their own. 

‘Bringing forward comprehensive strategies to slash emissions from farming and land use will be a vital catalyst to drive change – UK governments must act urgently to deliver these frameworks and give farmers the clarity they need. 

‘Ahead of COP27, the UK has the chance to lead the way, and solve another piece of the climate puzzle, by driving the transition to greener farming, both at home and overseas. In this critical decade for the planet, it’s a chance we must take.’

Chief executive at WWF

An opportunity for farmers

The report shows that shifting our farming system to one where emissions are reduced, while hedges, habitats and soil sequester carbon, offers a real opportunity for farmers.

It would increase both economic resilience by reducing the UK’s demand for artificial fertilisers and imported livestock feed, and resilience towards future climate shocks, by improving the health of soils and enhancing agricultural ecosystems.

WWF is now calling on ministers to bring forward detailed strategies ahead of COP27 in November, that set an ambitious, evidence-based path to slash greenhouse gas emissions from farming by more than 35% by 2030 and make UK land a net carbon sink no later than 2040, all while restoring nature.

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