UK Farming sets out its net zero goals

12 September 2019

The British farming sector will work with a range of stakeholders to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2040

Muriel Cozier

The farming sector in England and Wales is stepping up to the climate challenge with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) laying out its ambition to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions ‘across the whole of the agriculture by 2040.’

The NFU’s plans were released earlier this week in a document: Achieving Net Zero Farming’s 2040 Goal. The report sets out three pillars for achieving the goals, these are:

  • Improving faming’s productive efficiency
  • Improving land management and changing land use to capture more carbon
  • Boosting renewable energy and the wider bioeconomy

With British agricultural emissions standing at around 10% of the UK total GHG emissions (45.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2017), the report states that the agricultural sector is ‘uniquely placed to capture the major greenhouse gas – carbon dioxide – from the air and turn it, with the help of farmers, into a wide range of foods, fibres and fuels.’ The NFU added that its approach has been discussed with the Committee on Climate Change.

The report indicates that each pillar requires several actions. These actions include steps such as using controlled release fertilisers, improved animal health, anaerobic digestion converting animal waste and crop by-products into renewable energy. In addition, enhanced soil carbon storage, increased woodland planting on farms, as well as coupling bioenergy to carbon capture utilization and storage could deliver significant CO2 savings.

However, the NFU stressed that support from Government is crucial. Achieving improvements in farming productivity efficiency, the NFU said, will require the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFA) to ‘Immediately introduce pilot productivity schemes alongside the Environment Land Management Scheme (ELMS).’

The NFU’s ambitions for the farming sector are certain to be important talking points for SCI’s upcoming December conference: Climate Change and Livestock: What Next?

SCI’s conference will explore several the themes put forward in the NFU’s document. Speakers from academia and government will not only be setting the scene for the UK’s agricultural sector, but there will be the opportunity to get insight on the climate challenges faced in the agricultural sector beyond the UK.

Related links:

SCI's Agrisciences Group
Climate Change and Livestock: What Next?
Altering land use a critical part of the climate solution

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