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Inadequate policies holding the UK back from tackling Climate Change

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The Climate Change Committee advised Government last week that more action is urgently needed to address climate change, both in terms of reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. The climate advisers praise the Government for making historic climate promises in the past year, for which it deserves credit. However, it has been too slow to follow these with the delivery of meaningful action and policy.

Inadequate policies holding the UK back from tackling Climate Change

Overview of the new reports

The Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) double report (“Progress in reducing emissions” and “Progress in adapting to climate change”) provides a comprehensive overview of the UK Government’s progress to date on reducing emissions and adapting to climate change.

CC reports

The report(s) published on 24th June 2021 highlight that global emissions must be cut rapidly to Net Zero, integrated with actions to adapt to the climate risks and impacts, in order to build climate resilience. For example, we will not achieve Net Zero goals without also considering adaptation (e.g. risks to soil health from climate will impact on the capacity of soils to sequester and store carbon).

Whilst the UK has shown great ambitions, for example, the UK set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 and to become Net-Zero by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels); the Government has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and has not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead.

Climate change impacts are increasing (highlighted in a recent ADAS News Article here), but the UK Government’s National Adaptation Programme has not delivered the necessary improved resilience to the changing climate as was intended under the UK Climate Change Act.

Furthermore, with the COP26 United Nations climate conference due to take place in Glasgow later this year, the Government must step up to demonstrate clear action such as delivering on a promised Net Zero Strategy.

Priority Recommendations for Agriculture and Food

The CCC’s assessment offers more than 200 policy recommendations across all sectors and covering every part of Government. Key recommendations provided to the Government around food and agriculture include:

1] Implement measures to address non-financial barriers to tackling emissions from land use and agriculture, including awareness and improving skills in sustainable forestry and peatland management; scaling up supply chains; streamlining application processes and addressing contractual and tax issues where they are acting as barriers. Delivery plans should also set out measures to:

  • Improve knowledge exchange of low-carbon farming practices to provide confidence to farmers to take up measures to reduce on-farm GHGs.
  • Improve the science and evidence base for woodlands and peatlands, to deliver GHG reductions and multiple other benefits, ensure the right

2] Extend current ambition to implement a comprehensive delivery mechanism to address degraded peatland. This includes:

  • 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).

3] Extend current ambition to implement a comprehensive delivery mechanism for new woodland to create at least 30,000 hectares per year across the UK by 2025 (in line with the Government’s commitment) and an average of 40,000 hectares per year in the 2030s.

4] 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.

5] Implement measures to encourage consumers to shift diets and reduce food waste across the supply chain, including:

  • Low-cost, low-regret actions to encourage a 20% shift away from all meat by 2030, rising to 35% by 2050, and a 20% shift from dairy products by 2030. Develop an evidence-based
  • strategy to establish options for successful behaviour shifts and demonstrate public sector leadership.
  • Policy to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030 and 60% by 2050, with the public sector taking a lead through measures such as target setting and effective product labelling.

See the reports for the full list of recommendations provided by the CCC to the Government.

ADAS provide supporting research to the CCC

ADAS continue to support clients to address climate change challenges, including reducing emissions and adapting to climate impacts.

The Climate Change Committee commissioned ADAS to review and update indicators of climate-related risks and actions to inform current understanding of adaptation progress being made in England.

This review of a subset of the Adaptation Committee’s full indicator set provided supporting evidence to the 2021 Progress in Adapting to Climate Change Report outlined above.

How can ADAS support you

ADAS provides specialist advice and strategic evaluation of food chain sustainability, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving resilience to climate change. For further information, please visit our Sustainability Solutions webpage or contact Charles Ffoulkes.

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