Climate Policy Dashboard - Tracking progress to deliver net zero

 

Agriculture and Land Use Sector

CONTENTS

Progress Ranking and Key Recommendations | Sector Summary | Recent Policy Developments | Further detail: CCC policy recommendations

agriculture and land use - on the way

Progress ranking and key recommendations

Progress Ranking: On the Way (5/10)

Key actions on the road to world-leading policy

  • A range of key policy documents have yet to be released, including the passage  Environment Bill and the National Food Strategy White Paper.
  • The Government intends to phase out the use of peat in horticulture and ban the sale of peat and peat containing products in the amateur sector by the end of this parliament, subject to consultation.
  • The England Tree Action Plan commits the Government to fund public and private sector nurseries and seed supplies, as well as review the tax treatment of trees and woodlands to ensure that tax incentives align with their environmental goals.
  • The Agriculture Bill, legislated in late 2020, replaces the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with a new domestic subsidy scheme, the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELM). If designed and implemented correctly, this could represent a substantial improvement on the CAP, leading to greater focus on delivery of environmental benefits.
  • Of 26 recommendations we can currently assess for the agriculture and land-use sector, four have been met in full, with eight partially met, and four not met at all.
  1. The Government needs to introduce the Environment Bill and the National Food Strategy White Paper as soon as possible. These must contain the requisite ambition to put the sector on track to meet the UK's NDC, Sixth Carbon Budget and Net Zero Target. Urgent actions include:

    • Strengthening the post-CAP regulatory baseline, addressing nitrogen pollution from fertiliser and methane emissions from agriculture.

    • A clear strategy to address dietary change and food waste.

    • Setting out the mechanism by which afforestation can be funded via private investment, whether auctioned contracts or a carbon trading scheme.

    • Providing sufficient public funding for afforestation and peatland restoration where private investment cannot deliver.

    • Setting obligations for water companies and peatland owners in SSSI's to restore peatland on land they own.

    • Extending the ban on rotational burning of peatland to all peat, as the current ban only covers 9% of the UK's peat.

    • Delivering greater ambition and clarity on long-term peatland restoration targets as part of the forthcoming Net Zero Strategy.

Sector Summary

  • Agricultural and land-use emissions in 2019 were 67MtCO2e, or 13% of the UK total (CCC Sixth Carbon Budget, 2020). 
  • Emissions fell 1% from 2018-19 (CCC Progress Report, 2020). 
  • Major emission reductions will come from changing agricultural practices, falling meat consumption, decreasing food waste, and increased afforestation, energy crops and peatland restoration  
  • Current government ambition and policy in one area (diet change) is unstated and in another area (peatland restoration) ambition and policy is insufficient and limited and risks falling behind on the pathway to net zero 
Agriculture and land-use represented 13% of UK Emissions in 2019
Agriculture and land-use share of territorial emissions, 2019
Source: Climate Change Committee - Sixth Carbon Budget (2020)

Recent Policy Developments

  • The Government has published the England Tree Action Plan, which sets out the vision for trees, woodlands and forests from 2021-2024, and the England Peat Action Plan, which sets out the management, protection and restoration of upland and lowland peatlands. 
  • The Government has committed to planting 30,000 hectares of new woodland by 2025 (in line with CCC recommendations), and restore 35,000 hectares of peatland in England by 2025. This is ~7% of England's deep peat (the CCC recommends that 60% of upland peat is restored by 2035). This comes within a broader UK commitment to protect and improve 30% of UK land by 2030.
  • These commitments have been supported by the £640m Nature for Climate Fund with £500m earmarked for trees and woodlands and £50m for peatland restoration. 
  • The Agriculture Bill was passed into law in 2020. This replaces the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with a new domestic subsidy scheme, the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELM). This will apply in England and pay farmers and land-owners for the delivery of environmental benefits. The design of this scheme is still ongoing, with pilot ELM schemes occurring in 2021, in preparation for a full rollout by 2024.
  • In the devolved administrations, Wales is considering replacing the CAP with two separate payment schemes - a 'Sustainable Farming Payment' which would pay for the delivery of environmental goods (similar to the ELM), and a second mechanism to support farm businesses. Scotland and Northern Ireland have yet to set out how the CAP will be replaced in their jurisdiction.

Further detail: Policy recommendations from the CCC

#

Focus

Key Recommendation from the CCC

Government Progress

Met?

1

Strengthening the regulatory baseline to ensure low-regret measures are taken up

Need to extend existing regulation that address on-farm emissions - the Nitrates Directive should be amended to extend the coverage of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones to all of the UK

No progress has been made on extending existing regulation such as the Nitrates Directive. Currently only 55% of England, 14% of Scotland, all of Northern Ireland and some parts of Wales are designated as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones. Extending coverage would provide further incentives to reduce emissions from manure management and fertiliser use. The Environment Bill in its current form does not address this.

No

2

Strengthening the regulatory baseline to ensure low-regret measures are taken up

Introduce new legislation to cover currently unregulated emission - extend the Clean Air Strategy to cover methane emissions via enteric fermentation from livestock

No progress has been made on introducing new regulation such on enteric fermentation from livestock. Extending the Clean Air Strategy to target emissions from enteric fermentation from 2025 could significantly reduce agricultural GHG emissions. The Environment Bill in its current form does not address this.

 

No

3

Strengthening the regulatory baseline to ensure low-regret measures are taken up

Ban on rotational burning of peatland

Legislation has been announced to ban rotational burning of peatland in certain circumstances. However, the ban is only for deep peat in protected areas, which means it will only cover ~9% of England's peatland. The England Peatland Action Plan says that the Government will 'keep under review the environmental and economic case for extending the approach' to all peatland areas

Partly

4 Strengthening the regulatory baseline to ensure low-regret measures are taken up Ban the extraction of peat, and sale of peat for horticultural use

The Government has made no progress in banning the extraction of peat. However, the Government will publish a full consultation on phasing out the use of peat in horticulture in 2021, and recognise that the voluntary approach has not delivered. This will also consider banning the sale of peat and peat containing products in the amateur sector by the end of this parliament. The consultation will examine the feasibility of the following measures:

● Setting absolute deadlines to ban the sale of peat in both the amateur and professional sectors.

● Introducing a point-of-sale charge for the purchase of growing media containing peat. This could use the plastic bag charge as a model.

● Mandating all sellers of horticultural products containing peat, including plants, to publicly report on the volume of peat they sell each year (in bags or plant pots).

● Issuing a call for evidence on the wider uses of peat and peat products in the retail sector; for example - grass turf production, cosmetics and industries where peat forms part of the production process.

Partly

5

Strengthening the regulatory baseline to ensure low-regret measures are taken up

Set an obligation for water companies to restore peatland on land they own, and similarly for owners of peatland in SSSI.

There has been no progress made in setting obligations for water companies to restore peatland either on land owned or for peatland owners in SSSI

 

No

6

Funding for actions above the baseline to support more costly measures

Funding for afforestation/agro-forestry should be auctioned contracts or a carbon trading scheme, which could be privately funded. Early auction trials in 2020 were successful, but small scale. This needs to be urgently increased.

The England Tree Action Plan acknowledges the need for private finance to drive afforestation where possible, by funding for carbon removal, however it does not provide large amounts of policy detail on this. It notes that any public funding provided must stimulate private investment, "such as through payments for carbon captured by woodlands", rather than crowding private sector investment out. The Action Plan highlights the £50m Woodland Carbon Guarantee, which can help develop a domestic market for afforestation, by allowing landowners to sell their captured carbon. Currently the Woodland Carbon Guarantee is funded by the Government, rather than private investment. The Government launched a call for evidence in December 2020 around possible policy mechanisms to incentivise greenhouse gas removal, including afforestation, and will report on next steps in due course. The Government commits to: - Launch an Impact Fund in 2021 to leverage private finance into new natural capital markets for carbon, water quality, biodiversity, natural flood alleviation and other ecosystem services - Adopt a principle in the design and ongoing review of all our grant offers that it is in the landowners’ best interests to participate in natural capital markets or secure other sources of private funding - Support the development of the Woodland Water Code, a crediting mechanism to encourage private investment in trees for the improvement of the fresh-water environment - Explore expanding the UK Emissions Trading Scheme to include afforestation (as well as peatland restoration and other sources and sinks of emissions)

 

Partly

7

Funding for actions above the baseline to support more costly measures

Public funding should be made available to encourage the non-carbon benefits of afforestation, to ensure afforestation rates beyond private demand.

The England Tree Action Plan commits £500m of the £640m Nature for Climate Fund to support afforestation between 2020 and 2025. This will drive England tree planting rates of 7,000 hectares a year by 2025 - the UK-wide target is 30,000 hectares a year by 2025. Post-2024, the ELM scheme in England could also support afforestation and peatland restoration, via the Local Nature Recovery (smaller scale) and Landscape Recovery (larger-scale sites) schemes. Pilots for the Local Nature Recovery scheme are occurring in 2021, with pilots for the Landscape Recovery scheme due in 2022-2024.

Partly

8 Funding for actions above the baseline to support more costly measures There should be public funding for peatland restoration as well £50m for Peatland Restoration from the Nature for Climate Fund will restore 35000ha by 2025. This will be supported by the Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme which will include planning grants and annual bidding opportunities. The scheme will run until 2025. There is a need to compare to scale of restoration needed to CCC targets. Post-2024, the ELM scheme in England could also support afforestation and peatland restoration, via the Local Nature Recovery (smaller scale) and Landscape Recovery (larger-scale sites) schemes. Pilots for the Local Nature Recovery scheme are occurring in 2021, with pilots for the Landscape Recovery scheme due in 2022-2024. Partly
9 Funding for actions above the baseline to support more costly measures Public funding and regulation for sustainable management of low-land peat that remains in agricultural use By Summer 2022, the Government will have recommendations for a more sustainable future for lowland agricultural peatlands, developed by the Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force. Where the environmental benefits are clear, the delivery of these recommendations may be supported through new schemes that reward farmers and land managers for producing public goods; the sale of peatland carbon credits; and better regulation. These schemes which will support peatland restoration and management are Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery Schemes. Partly

10

Funding for actions above the baseline to support more costly measures

Funding needs to be made available for low-carbon farming practices which go beyond the regulatory baseline and which impose costs on farmers (e.g. robotic milking parlours)

In the Agricultural Transition Plan, there is a commitment to take the money saved by reducing Direct Payments and make this available via grants and other financial support to farmers, including for sustainability objectives. While many of these grants are for land-use change (e.g. hedgerow creation), the Farming Investment Fund for Equipment and Technology and Transformation will provide this financial support, and is open for applications in late 2021. Key to its success will be its scale and the design of the application process.

Partly

11

Funding for actions above the baseline to support more costly measures

The Government should set out a clear pathway to incentivise zero-carbon agricultural machinery and develop technology options here.

No clarity on where off-road mobile machinery will be addressed by the Government, having been omitted from the Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy.

No

12

Enabling measures to address non-financial barriers

Support schemes to strengthen skills, training and market commercialisation of innovation low-carbon farming options

The Agricultural Transition Plan announces a new skills body, the Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture. This will launch later in 2021, and will focus on skills development in the industry, including a focus on 'creating profit and protecting the planet'. Further details will be needed here to assess its potential to drive skills growth in low-carbon farming options, and there is no mention of market commercialisation

Partly

13 Enabling measures to address non-financial barriers The tax treatment of woodlands should be reviewed and, if necessary, amended to ensure there is no disadvantage to farmers from changing their use of land to forestry. The England Tree Action Plan commits the Government to review the tax treatment of trees and woodlands, to ensure tax incentives align with their environmental goals Yes
14 Enabling measures to address non-financial barriers Scale up the domestic supply chain, from tree nurseries to sawmills and wood processors. The domestic nursery capacity will have to increase markedly to provide the quantity of trees needed to afforest 30,000 hectares each year. This will require policy support and coordination in the supply chain.

The England Tree Action Plan commits the Government to:

- "Provide funding to support UK public and private sector nurseries and seed suppliers to enhance quantity, quality, diversity and biosecurity of domestic tree production. This will include capital grants and support to augment investment and stimulate innovation."

- 'Provide a Nursery Notification Scheme that will help better plan for supply and demand in the sector. This will support nurseries and seed suppliers to produce the right stock at the right time.'

Yes

15

Enabling measures to address non-financial barriers

Address contractual arrangements that may constrain uptake on tenant farms/common land

The Agriculture Bill introduces measures to enable tenant farmers to engage in ELM schemes where a landlord with undue reason, aiming to address the issue of restrictive clauses in tenancy agreements.

Yes

16

Encouraging consumers to shift diets and reduce food waste

Should implement a strategy with low-cost low-regret options to encourage a 20% shift away from all meet by 2030, rising to 35% in 2050, and a 20% shift from dairy products by 2030.

The National Food Strategy White Paper is yet to be released.

 

N/A

17

Encouraging consumers to shift diets and reduce food waste

Implement a strategy to reduce food waste by 50% in 2050 and 60% in 2050, with the public sector taking a lead.

The National Food Strategy White Paper is yet to be released. 

N/A

18

Interim policies to avoid a hiatus in action

Interim policies should be rapidly implemented to avoid a hiatus in action while designing the post-CAP long-term regulatory framework (e.g. ELMs will have full rollout in 2024, but funding needs to be available for sustainable land-use prior to this)

The Agricultural Transition Plan makes provision for this, e.g. committing that the phasing out of Direct Payments will be replaced by equivalent level of financial support for farming business and sustainability provisions.


In addition to this, DEFRA has updated the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for 2022. This agri-environmental scheme should go some way to covering the gap between current support schemes and the full roll-out of the ELM. Similarly, the Government has committed to producing an interim Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) to cover some gaps between removing the EU's environmental framework and introducing a UK framework via the Environment Bill.

Yes

19   Ensure lowland peat soils are not left bare N/A - The CCC has recommended this is achieved by 2021-23 N/A
20   Publish an overarching strategy that clearly outlines the relationships and interactions between the multiple action plans in development for the natural environment, including those for peat, trees, nature and plant biosecurity. This must clearly outline how the different strategies will combine to support the Government’s climate change goals on both Net Zero and adaptation, along with the wider environment and other goals. N/A - The CCC has recently recommended this policy, government progress against this measure will be monitored N/A
21   Make long-term targets for biodiversity, set out under the Environment Bill, and associated timeframes outcome-based and linked directly to the goals set out in the Government’s 25- Year Environment Plan. N/A - The CCC has recommended this is achieved by H1 2022 N/A
22   Make interim targets for biodiversity statutory and link them clearly to the long-term targets set out in the Environment Bill N/A - The CCC has recommended this is achieved by H1 2022 N/A
23   The commitment in the 25 Year Environment Plan to achieve 75% restoration for terrestrial and freshwater protected sites should be extended to include all priority habitat sites. N/A - The CCC has recently recommended this policy, government progress against this measure will be monitored N/A
24  

Provide incentives and address non-financial barriers across all of the UK to: • Plant trees on 2% of farmland by 2025 while maintaining their primary use, rising to 5% by 2035.

• Extend hedgerows by 20% by 2035 and better manage existing hedgerows.

• Increase the area growing energy crops across the UK to 6,000 hectares per year by 2025, and 30,000 hectares per year by 2035.

N/A - The CCC has recommended this is achieved by 2021-25 N/A
25   Introduce a comprehensive plan and incentives to deliver emissions reduction across all UK farms through: • High take-up of low-carbon agricultural measures (60-75% by 2050) covering livestock (diets, breeding, and health), soils (cover crops and grass-legume mix) & waste management (anaerobic digestion and slurry covers). • Measures to incentivise the take-up of near-zero-emissions options for agricultural machinery and vehicles from the mid-2020s, and develop options where they are not currently available. N/A - The CCC has recommended this is achieved by 2021-25 N/A
26  

Extend current ambition set out by the UK government and the devolved administrations to implement a comprehensive delivery mechanism to address degraded peatland:

• 17% of upland peat is restored, equivalent to 200,000 hectares (and where this is not possible, stabilise the peat) by 2025; 58% by 2035 (700,000 hectares) and the remaining area by 2045.

• Rewet and sustainably manage 12% of lowland peat used for crops by 2025 (24,000 hectares), rising to 38% by 2035 (72,000 hectares).

• Rewet 8% of lowland grassland area by 2025 (18,000 hectares), rising to 25% by 2035 (54,000 hectares).

• Remove all low-productive trees (i.e. less than YC8) from peatland (equivalent to 16,000 hectares by 2025), and restore all peat extraction sites by 2035 (equivalent to 50,000 hectares by 2025)

N/A - The CCC has recommended this is achieved by 2021-25 N/A
27 Enabling measures to address non-financial barriers Introduce new measures to support the UK bioenergy market, such as agreements to source a minimum proportion of biomass feedstocks from the UK, and finance for growing energy crops N/A - likely to be released in the Biomass Strategy in 2022 N/A

Last updated 26th August 2021 to account for the Hydrogen Strategy (August 2021)

Previous Sector: Manufacturing | Return to Dashboard Homepage | Next Sector: Buildings