Net-zero next steps


CLA Land Use Policy Adviser Alice Ritchie looks at the Government's recent announcement for net-zero emissions by 2050 

Theresa May is going out with a bang, announcing this week that the UK has legislated to get to net-zero emissions by 2050. This is big, historic news that has been widely met with praise around the world. As CLA Deputy President Mark Bridgeman said in a press release following the announcement, the hard bit comes now – how is the UK government going to find workable policies to make sure we achieve these targets? For our members, the big questions will be around what this means for agriculture and land use.

To get to net-zero, sectors like aviation, transport and energy need to rapidly reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide while the land use sector will have a big role to play in offsetting the remainder through tree planting, peatland restoration and keeping our soils healthy.

There’s a lot of talk about how diet change will fit into this, considering that ruminant livestock like cattle and sheep are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. The government has made it clear that policies to reduce consumption of livestock products will be targeted at consumers, not farmers, so in the meantime it will be important for English and Welsh farmers to continue doing what they do best: producing high quality food and looking after the environment. It’s worth us keeping in mind what might happen if consumers do reduce their meat and milk consumption and how this might change the industry. Pork and poultry consumption will increase, along with plant-based protein sources, and there will be plenty of opportunities for novel crops, different food products and alternative uses of land.

The CLA is doing plenty of engagement with the government on this, mainly through our involvement with the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan Group. The message coming through from Defra is that carbon footprinting might be a big part of any climate change policy. Undertaking a carbon footprint on your farm is a great way to get an idea of your greenhouse gas emissions and the amount you’re absorbing through trees and soils. The CLA will be producing a guidance note on carbon footprinting shortly, in conjunction with our Climate Change Summit on 2 July, explaining the basics and outlining the tools available for land managers to use.

Change is on the horizon, but the great news is that farmers and landowners are a critical part of the solution to this global challenge. Come along to our Summit, or contact me at to find out what this net-zero target might mean for your business.  

CLA Land Use Policy Adviser Alice Ritchie unpacks the rise in public interest surrounding climate change and what farmers can do