Change how we use land, says new climate change report: our response - CPRE, the countryside charity

Change how we use land, says new climate change report: our response

23rd January 2020

A report released by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) calls for fundamental changes to land use in order to address the climate crisis – and we at CPRE agree.

The CCC, an independent body set up to advise the government around the climate emergency, has been assessing different ways that land is used and the impact that this might have on our climate.

Its findings are clear: the current UK target for net-zero carbon emissions can’t be met unless we make big changes to land use.

The report suggests various ways that the way we use land (which can include farming and land management) can be adjusted to lower carbon emissions and, even more than that, actually increase the ability of land to actually lock carbon away. These proposals include planting more trees (including on farmland), increasing the areas covered by forests and therefore increasing the number of trees that can capture carbon, and restoring peatlands – an area on which CPRE has long been active.

You can read more about our work considering land use in our report, Landlines: why we need a strategic approach to land and our thinking about the need for peatland to be restored – also called for in the CCC report – in our Back to the land: rethinking our approach to soil proposals.

What we think

Tom Fyans, our deputy chief executive, said in response to the CCC report:

‘Climate breakdown is fundamentally reshaping our countryside. The way we use land will be at the core of turning some of the worst impacts into opportunities to create a better and more resilient countryside. We need to invest in nature-based solutions that lock up carbon instead of releasing it. That means inviting nature back by planting more trees and hedgerows, caring for our soils and incentivising low carbon farming.

‘The CCC is right to recommend banning peat extraction and the burning of peatland in the near future. For too long, restoring peatlands has been left high and dry as a climate solution. But much more ambition on rewetting peatland soils is essential if we are to avoid fires like those at Saddleworth moor in 2019. The CCC should press the government to go much further than saving just over a quarter of UK peatland emissions by 2050.’

Agree that our behaviours and use of the land need to change to cut carbon emissions? Read more about our position on the climate emergency or become a CPRE member to support our campaigning work to keep calling for urgent action, including in your local area.

A view of English farmland down a valley with green grassy slopes and a farm
The face of English farmland is likely to change dramatically in the future, as we change the way land is used to address the climate crisis