CLA Land Use Policy Adviser Alice Ritchie on her top five takeaways from the CLA Climate Change Summit which took place earlier this week.
This week the CLA hosted a Climate Change Summit in Central London which was attended by plenty of fantastic farmers, landowners and rural professionals, all there to find out how we as a sector are going to tackle climate change head-on.
It was standing room only in the lecture theatre, so in case you couldn’t make it or missed out on tickets, here’s the top five things you need to know.
- The UK has committed to an ambitious new net-zero target and agriculture and land use will be at the heart of it. Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, gave an inspiring speech, making it clear that we can’t meet our targets without the land use sector getting involved in tree planting, soil carbon management and peatland restoration. He envisions a nation that is “increasingly proud of our land and the way it is managed” and praised the CLA for having a long-term focus and engaging on climate change issues for 20+ years.
- We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us, and farmers and landowners will have to make some transformational changes to adapt to warmer temperatures. Dr Rebecca Wheeler, Research Fellow at the Centre for Rural Policy Research, University of Exeter gave us a sense of the changes coming down the line, with ‘hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters’. A key point that stuck out to me was that by 2050, the chance of hot summers like 2018 will be around 50%. While that might sound quite nice to a recent UK import like me, unfortunately it’s not such good news for farmers.
- Soil isn’t talked about enough! Good soil underpins entire farm systems and there is currently about 10 billion tonnes of carbon stored in UK soils – equivalent to about 80 years of current UK emissions. Chris Collins, Professor of Environmental Chemistry at the University of Reading, talked through how our soils are degrading, but that through good crop and livestock management we can increase their organic material – storing more carbon and increasing soil health.
- Climate change will threaten our forestry and woodland, with more pests and diseases, high speed wind events, drought and forest fires likely. However, trees are important for carbon sequestration so species, location, pest-resistance and timing will be important. Paul Thomas, FRSA had some fantastic, informative slides. The one that most interested me outlined all the various tree planting targets for the UK which range from 2,000ha/year (Woodlands for Wales) to 260,000ha/year (Zero Carbon Britain).
- Livestock pose a bit of an issue, being both part of the problem and part of the solution. While they are the biggest source of greenhouse gases from agriculture, they are also really important to keep our permanent pasture intact and our soils healthy. The audience asked plenty of questions about diet change, consumer choices and farm systems, with the panellists all reiterating that the UK currently produces plenty of high-quality, extensively produced meat and dairy, and that’s what we should be championing.
By the end of the summit, our voting software indicated that 95% of the delegates were planning on including climate change in their business plans going forward - a very promising sign.