Reduce emissions from farming and land use

Land use changes are required for the UK to reach its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

This means building up ‘natural capital’ such as woodlands and peatlands and farming in more sustainable ways.

It makes sense to explore these changes to see if you can benefit financially. There are government funds and private investment options that can help you get started.

Contents

  1. Plant trees
  2. Restore peatlands
  3. Adopt low-emission farming practices
  4. Produce energy crops
  5. Generate renewable energy
  6. Get finance and support

Plant trees

Planting trees increases the amount of carbon that is ‘captured’ or ‘sequestered’ on your property.

There are two main ways to do this:

  • ‘agro-forestry’ – planting trees and shrubs among agricultural land
  • tree planting and woodland creation – creating more new woodlands and landscapes with many trees, and encouraging management of existing woodland

Visit Forest Research’s Climate Change Hub for:

  • information and practical support about climate change risks to UK woodlands
  • guidance for practitioners to adapt their woodlands

Trees can earn extra income for your business if you use the right lands and plant appropriate species.

You can also earn money from the sale of timber, as woodland can be ‘thinned’ using forestry management techniques.

Restore peatlands

Restoring or ‘re-wetting’ peatlands has the ability to capture and store large amounts of carbon.

Historic land-use change such as ‘drained’ peatland contributes to emissions in the present. However, much of the UK’s ‘drained’ peatland is now used for farming, so converting it all back would negatively impact food production.

Similar to woodlands, it makes sense to look into peatland restoration for less productive agricultural lands. Much of this is known as ‘upland’ peat which is used for grazing as opposed to crop production.

According to the Country Land and Business Association this type of peatland is less expensive to restore.

Adopt low-emission farming practices

According to GOV.UK,  farming is the source of 11% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the UK.

The Committee on Climate Change estimates that the majority of these emissions can be cut by 2050 without impacting UK food production.

Emissions from farming and land use come from:

  • fossil fuel-powered equipment
  • nitrous oxide from fertiliser
  • methane released directly from ‘ruminant’ livestock (sheep and cattle) and their manure

Techniques that can reduce these emissions include:

  • energy-efficient vehicles
  • precision application of fertilisers and precision farming techniques (GPS, etc)
  • integration of cover crops in rotation or herbal leys ((temporary grasslands made up of legume, herb and grass species)
  • improving herd health

Visit these websites for more information:

Produce energy crops

Currently only a small fraction of UK farmland is used to grow crops that can produce ‘bioenergy’.

Crops grown for bioenergy are typically low-cost and low-maintenance varieties that can be used for energy production in biomass energy schemes.

This helps reduce overall emissions as biomass can replace fossil fuels as source fuel for energy generation.

Common bioenergy crops include:

  • food crops such as wheat, maize and sugarbeet
  • dedicated energy crops including perennial grasses such as silvergrass (miscanthus), and short rotation species like the coppice willow

It is important to recognise the risks linked to energy crops, as planting the same crops across a large amount of land can lead to biodiversity loss.

You need to take into account:

  • species-appropriate planning
  • the local geography

Download ‘Land Use Policies for a Net Zero UK’ from the Climate Change Committee for more detailed guidance on bioenergy crops.

Generate renewable energy

Rural locations can be ideal for solar panels and wind turbines.

It can make financial sense if you have land that isn’t suitable for food production.

You can earn extra income or defer the cost of energy bills by generating your own energy.

Check our solar panels and wind turbines pages for more guidance.

Get finance and support

The UK Government has a number of ‘Environmental Land Management’ schemes to help convert land into uses that improve the environment and reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

These schemes include the:

These fund a range of different land use improvements across the UK. Other schemes are the responsibility of devolved governments.

In England

In Wales

In Scotland

In Northern Ireland

Take part in the UK Net Zero Business Census
Take part in the UK Net Zero Business Census