The UK has made good progress on combating climate change says the Committee on Climate Change in its latest progress report.
UK GHG emissions have fallen while the economy has grown, and costs continue to fall for key low-carbon technologies such as wind power and electric vehicles while performance is improving fast.
It also sees the transition to a low-carbon economy as being a key part of the UK’s industrial strategy and offering significant co-benefits particularly for air quality and health.
However, the committee is clear that progress will not continue without new policies. Most significant domestic policies for reducing emissions end around 2020, leaving a big gap through the next decade and beyond.
The report calls for a stronger policy framework for reducing emissions from agriculture and land use as current progress is off-track. It notes that non-CO2 emissions, like methane from ruminants and nitrous oxide mainly from nitrogen sources in the soil, have remained broadly flat. This is despite what it sees as significant low-cost opportunities to cut emissions.
In assessing the progress on adaptation across the UK, the committee notes that risks from a changing climate have increased. Soil in particular is under the spotlight with calls for a plan to deliver the aspiration for all soils to be managed sustainably, and a target for restoring all designated upland blanket bog habitats to favourable condition by 2030. It also says a more proactive strategy is needed to ensure the availability of safe, affordable and nutritious food in the UK.
The NFU said the report reinforces the need for the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan‘s work on a set of indicators to better reflect the change in on-farm practice undertaken by farmers as they seek to improve productivity and reduce GHGs. “The committee recognises that uncertainty in current agricultural emissions estimates is high relative to other sectors, making it difficult to assess mitigation options effectively, said a spokesman.
“While the new GHG inventory, expected next year, will improve the situation, gaps will remain. In particular, it is not clear how robust estimates of future mitigation potential are to a changing climate.
“In its assessment of the possible impacts of climate change, the CCC has considered the production of food alongside the many services provided by the land like clean water and biodiversity. However this approach misses the vital human element, where farmers make decisions on the basis of economic, social and environmental costs and benefits to their farm businesses. It does recognise that a more proactive strategy is needed to ensure the availability of safe, affordable, nutritious food in the UK and which needs to begin now.
“The committee is not alone in eyeing up the replacement for the CAP as an opportunity to link future support to delivering both adaptation and mitigation. Like the NFU, it sees the transition to a low-carbon economy as being a key part of the UK’s industrial strategy. Our response to the recent BEIS consultation sets out clearly what agriculture’s contribution could be and what it needs to deliver this,” said the spokesman.