“Changing the way we use our land is critical to delivering the UK’s net zero target.”
The UK should focus on increasing the use of biomass in construction, in the long term, government climate advisers have urged.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) made the recommendation in a new report calling for major and urgent changes to how land is managed to help the UK reach its legal target to cut emissions to net zero by 2050.
In its report, the advisers maintained that sustainably harvested biomass could play a significant role in reaching the UK’s 2050 climate target.
It urges the UK government to encourage bioenergy crops by expanding UK energy crops to around 23,000 hectares a year. The advisers also call for the government to introduce a requirement for biomass combustion facilities to source a fixed proportion of their crops from the UK.
Farmers will grow energy crops and supply biomass feedstocks if there is strong market demand, the CCC (@theCCCUK) added.
However, the CCC said that in the longer term, support for biomass crops should reflect long-term best use. It added: “Over time, government policies should assist a transition towards increased use of biomass in construction and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), and away from using biomass for heating buildings and for generating power without carbon capture and storage (CCS).
It highlighted in a biomass hierarchal table that wood in construction and other long-lived bio-based products could be developed during this decade until 2050.
Separately, the report also maintained that a fifth of agricultural land needs to be taken out of production and freed up for natural methods of storing carbon such as more woodlands and trees.
Encouraging people to cut the beef, lamb and dairy they eat by a fifth – which the committee said was a “modest” reduction within Government health guidelines – will help cut greenhouse gases and free up land for storing carbon.
The Committee says land use – that’s farms, forests and peatland – accounted for 12% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2017.
But by 2050, it says, farmers and land-managers must reduce these emissions by almost two thirds for the UK to meet its targets.
New forests, it urges, should be funded by a levy on greenhouse gas-emitting industries such as aviation.
Increasing forestry will provide woods for recreation, clean the air, filter water and capture flood waters on the land, the report said.
The report is being published as land management policies are undergoing a huge shake-up as the UK quits the EU subsidy regime and, in England, shifts towards payments for “public goods”.
Lord Deben, chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “Changing the way we use our land is critical to delivering the UK’s net zero target.
“The options we are proposing would see farmers and land managers – the stewards of the land – delivering actions to reduce emissions.
“Doing so can provide new revenue opportunities for farmers, better air quality and improved biodiversity, and more green spaces for us all to enjoy.”
But he said the changes could not be delivered in the normal course of business, and warned: “We are in a race against time, there’s no doubt urgency must be the hallmark of what we are doing here.”