AHDB responds to UK Climate Change Committee report

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

from Dr Jonathan Foot, Head of Environment

Today’s report from the UK Climate Change Committee is the 6th edition of an annual report which outlines how the UK can lower it’s carbon emissions. This year focus is on how the UK is to achieve the Government’s target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Despite the media focus on a reduction in red meat and dairy, the main headline of the report is that lowering emissions is obtainable, particularly financially. With the authors concluding less than 1% of national wealth could be spent to cut up to 78% of total emissions by 2035.

This can only be achieved through significant changes within all sectors of the UK economy, from transport which is the largest emitter, right through to land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) which is the only net carbon absorber.

As well as industry change, consumer change is also addressed, with the report stating “it will require public to reduce their demand for high carbon activities such flying, driving cars and eating red meat with every meal.”

Despite the UK having some of the world’s most sustainable red meat and dairy production systems, it is clear that in order for us to continue production and consumption, significant carbon savings must be made. Fortunately we have a unique opportunity as an industry, in our ability to not only reduce carbon emissions but also absorb carbon from the atmosphere via LULUCF.

With such major changes required, along with a whole host of other changes on the horizon such as policy change, AHDB’s new five year strategy (2021-2026) focuses on placing AHDB at the center of such change. With critical focus on providing evidence, tools, solutions and support to our levy payers.

Fortunately decades of environmental consideration within our sectors, provides us with a solid base for understanding what the main focus areas need to be, and they aren’t revolutionary. Improving production efficiency, effective nutrient management and feed conversion ratios, and lastly wider land management for carbon sequestration (capture) and storage.

The latter will involve large scale tree planting, restoring peat lands, planting perennial energy crops and short-rotational coppice such as Willow.

This inevitably raises apprehension with many producers as there is undoubtedly cost involved, however significant opportunities for revenue streams will arise from new farm support policies such as Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) in England, as farmers will be paid for public goods and services. In addition to this, evidence supports the notion ‘better for the environment equals better for businesses’.

The first step for all farmers and growers is to understand your business now and where easy wins lie in terms of cost and carbon savings, after all they go hand in hand. Last month AHDB launched its first wave of on-farm carbon footprinting assessments across our Farm Excellence Platform. These are essentially the gathering of information to identify and quantify all activities or inputs on farm that come with a carbon footprint. This will then be assessed or benchmarked to determine where savings lie, and a bespoke plan created. Learnings from these first 40 will enable us to assess how best to support farmers and growers in doing it on their own farms.

In the spring of 2021, we plan to run Carbon Week, a whole week of online webinars designed to help our levy payers to carbon-footprint their farms. We are also working on an initiative to give farmers access to independent science and advice to inform their business choices. Enabling them to make best on-farm changes to lower carbon footprints while increasing productivity and profitability.

The new strategy also focuses on the reputation of UK agriculture, with AHDB marketing activity to champion British red meat and dairy, encouraging consumers to continue to enjoy it as part of a healthy balanced diet.  

Read the full UKCCC report here