Agriculture and land use, land use change and forestry

Emissions from agriculture account for around a tenth of all UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector was a net carbon sink of 5 MtCO2e (equivalent to abating 1% of UK GHG emissions).

Agriculture emissions reached 54 MtCO2e in 2013, broadly unchanged from the previous year.  There is no indication that reductions have been driven changes in farming practice.  In addition, the estimates of GHG emissions in the sectors are highly uncertain. This creates significant problems in tracking progress, and more widely for understanding whether carbon budgets are being met.

The voluntary nature of the industry-led GHG Action Plan to reduce emissions in this sector and the lack of effective monitoring do not provide confidence of future abatement.

Our key recommendations are:

  • The Smart Inventory, essential for effective measurement of emissions from agriculture, should be delivered in 2016, without further delays.
  • The farming industry should develop robust indicators to properly evaluate the GHG Action Plan. Government should consider stronger measures as part of its 2016 review if it cannot assess the effectiveness of the existing scheme.
  • Ensure measures being implemented across the four nations in agriculture and forestry are feasible, cost-effective and consistent with UK carbon budgets.

Outturn emissions versus indicator trajectories for the agricultural sector (2003-2022)

 Progress against indicators and milestonesChallenges
AgricultureGovernment policy review (2016):

  • Review the voluntary approach
  • Consider policy options for intervention
  • Set triggers for intervention
Defra has started the review and is considering a range of policy options. This should include whether to continue with the current voluntary approach and/or introduce policies which would provide stronger incentives for farmers.
Deliver the new Smart Inventory (2016), without further delayEssential that this is delivered in order to improve the accuracy of estimates and reduce the range of uncertainty associated with agricultural emissions
LULUCF Development and implementation of a woodland creation programmeProgress to date on UK tree planting rates has been short of the ambition required to deliver 1MtCO2e of savings by 2030. Consideration is needed about whether the balance of effort between each country’s contribution towards meeting the overall UK ambition remains appropriate.
Include upland peat emissions in the LULUCF inventory by 2017Government awaiting the results from own projects that will assess upland emissions and carbon benefits of restoration practices
Develop a policy framework to increase peatland restoration by 2017Required as much of upland peat is in a degraded condition