Important role of Agriculture and land-based sector in tackling climate change – 2 December 2008

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and Rural Climate Change Forum (RCCF) today highlighted the significant abatement potential that exists in the agriculture and land-based sector. The UK agricultural sector contributes 7% of the UK’s total greenhouse emissions, and is a particularly significant contributor to non-carbon dioxide emissions, particularly nitrous oxide and methane.

The CCC’s report, Building a low-carbon economy, published yesterday makes clear the important contribution that the sector could make towards helping the UK achieve its proposed targets in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The report suggests a technical GHG reduction potential for the agriculture sector of
13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) per year by 2020 (of the 44
MtCO2e current emissions), at a cost up to £40/tCO2e, with a more realistic potential
of between 6 MtCO2e and 11 MtCO2e per year, depending on the balance of
scientific knowledge, and regulatory, economic and voluntary policy instruments that
the Government decides to pursue.

Overall, the report urges the Government to commit unilaterally to reducing
emissions of all greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the UK by at least 34% in 2020 relative
to 1990 levels (21% relative to 2005). This should be increased to 42% relative to
1990 (31% relative to 2005) once a global deal to reduce emissions is achieved. The
CCC says meeting these targets is necessary to contain the threat of climate

Lord Adair Turner, Chair of the CCC said:

“Our analysis suggests that there is a significant potential from the agriculture sector
that could help the UK achieve its carbon budgets. There is however considerable
uncertainty around what is realistically achievable, and I appreciate that at present
there are no specific policies to help unlock these emissions. We will therefore
continue to deepen our understanding of this sector and I recommend that
Government focuses on developing a policy framework for reducing emissions from
the agriculture sector. This will help enable prudent budget management and inform
future budget reviews”.

Dr John Gilliland OBE, Chair of the RCCF said:

“I very much welcome the CCC‟s inaugural report. It is clear that agriculture and
climate change are inextricably linked. The report recognises this and highlights the
considerable challenges the agriculture and land based sector faces, together with its
responsibilities and opportunities. As Chairman of RCCF I look forward to working
with the CCC, DEFRA, the new Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)
and key delivery bodies like the Carbon Trust on these vital issues. It will be
important to develop the future policy framework so that the sector can play an
appropriate role in helping to deliver against this wider UK target. The Forum are
particularly looking forward to working with the CCC and DEFRA to organise an
experts workshop in February to discuss future climate change mitigation policy
instruments for the sector”.

“As with other sectors, agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are a global issue
which are coming under increasing scrutiny by the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change and others. In preparation for the post 2012 global climate change
negotiations in Copenhagen this time next year, the Secretariat to the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has developed a technical
paper that considers the „challenges and opportunities for mitigation in the agriculture
sector‟. This is a clear signal to both developed and developing nations to examine
seriously how they can best reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture”.

Notes to Editors:
Committee on Climate Change (CCC)

The CCC is an independent body established under the Climate Change Act to advise the
Government on setting the first legally binding carbon budgets, and to report to Parliament on the progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The CCC also advises on what the UK’s long-term climate change target should be as a fair contribution towards a global deal.

Web address:

Rural Climate Change Forum (RCCF)
The RCCF was established by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in March 2005 and brings together the key organisations with an interest in the rural land management sector to advise on research needs, policy development and communications on climate change issues to farmers and land managers. The Secretary of State recently extended the term of the Forum to 2011. The Forum is chaired by Dr John Gilliland OBE.

Further information about the Forum can be found at:

  • Climate change is one of the most serious challenges facing the agriculture, forestry and land management sector. The sector is also responsible for a significant proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, 7% of UK total emissions (which is of a similar magnitude to transport emissions), particularly methane (contributing to 38% of UK total) and nitrous oxide (contributing to 68% of UK total). Direct emissions arising from the UK livestock sector (sheep, pigs, cattle and poultry) were 3.1% of the UK’s total emissions in 2006.
  • Farmers and land managers need to be aware of, and manage, the threats that climate change presents to agriculture. Farmers and land managers also have responsibilities to help mitigate climate change, look after the natural environment on their land and maintain the ecosystem services that the land provides. But climate change might also offer new business opportunities to farmers such as increased productivity through improved growing conditions or increased demand for biomass to support renewable energy production.
  • The Secretariat to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) published a Technical Paper ‘Challenges and opportunities for mitigation in the agricultural sector’ (FCCC/TP/2008/8) on 21st November 2008. It can be viewed on the UNFCCC’s website at:

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