Newark Langleys Solicitors: Farmers have crucial role in achieving zero carbon target
YOU may have seen in the news recently that the sixth carbon budget was laid before Parliament in the Draft Carbon Budget Order last month, writes Amy Cowdell, partner of Langleys Solicitors, Newark.
Under the Climate Change Act 2008 the order must be passed this year to keep up with the requirement of setting a budget every five years to meet the zero carbon holy grail by 2050.
The budget sets to slash the previously advised reduction in carbon emissions from 68% to 78% by 2035, compared with the 1991 emissions release.
Farming businesses and land managers will have a significant role to play in meeting these targets.
Natural England recently published a major study showing the extent that nature has to offer in capturing carbon, providing some exciting opportunities to farmers and land managers when worked together with the new environmental land management scheme incentives.
Natural England reports that to meet the 2050 target, major changes will be required in the way we manage the land, coast and sea. Healthy eco-systems have the ability to capture and store large volumes of carbon in soils, sediments and vegetation.
The report reviews individual semi-natural habitats and analyses the degree and efficiencies of capturing CO2 emissions compared with each other.
Essentially, the report aims to provide stakeholders with the detail required to support decisions relating to carbon in semi-natural habitats.
There is no doubt that the report will assist in the development of the Landscape Recovery Scheme, one of the three incentive schemes under the environmental land management regime.
This scheme will incentivise farmers to create or maintain habitats that enhance biodiversity and store carbon.
So which habitats are most effective for carbon storage?
The findings revealed that peatlands are by far the largest carbon store. If they are in a good healthy condition, they capture carbon slowly, but can continue indefinitely. With some peatlands being some ten metres deep, it is reported that these are storing centuries of carbon.
Woodland has a high rate of carbon sequestration (carbon dioxide removal) but not all woodland is effective at this process, which largely depends on the age, species and location of the woodlands.
Darren Moorcroft, chief executive of the Woodland Trust comments on the report: “Acknowledging the significance of native woodlands and other valuable habitats as natural solutions to climate change and nature recovery is vital for tackling the climate crisis and we welcome this contribution from Natural England to the growing evidence base.”
Interestingly, hedgerow and orchards are quite effective at storing carbon, but these cover smaller areas and are cut regularly, so have a lesser impact.
Heathlands and grasslands are not as effective as peatlands but are certainly better than a modern agricultural landscape.
Coupled with the biodiversity benefits of these long-established habitats, they are seen as playing an important role.
With the variety of semi-natural habitats being effective at storing carbon, there is real opportunity for many farmers to get involved, whether that is through nurturing well-established habitats that are storing centuries of carbon, or through creating new areas of habitats and hedgerows.
Farmers and land managers have the potential to contribute to the 2050 net zero carbon target, slow the speed of climate change and receive government incentives to help bolster their profit and loss accounts following the reduced payments of the basic payment scheme.