Urgently support land managers to adopt nature-based solutions for climate change
27 January 2022
The Committee’s report on nature-based solutions for climate change concludes that without policy clarity, urgent investment in research, skills training and the introduction of a new advisory service for farmers and land managers, the Government’s ambitious plans for nature-based solutions are at severe risk of failure. Failure puts net zero by 2050 at risk and would undermine the agricultural sector.
- Report: Nature-based solutions: rhetoric or reality? (PDF)
- Report: Nature-based solutions: rhetoric or reality? (HTML)
- Inquiry: Nature-based solutions for climate change
- Science and Technology Committee
Nature-based solutions are not a ‘get out of jail free card’; the priority must be to reduce emissions from all sectors. But they can play a vital role in compensating for emissions from sectors where eliminating all emissions by 2050 will be impossible, while at the same time restoring UK nature and providing additional benefits. The Government has ambitious targets for nature-based solutions to be deployed at scale, but they are at risk of failure.
The committee was concerned about scientific uncertainties around the carbon sequestration and storage of different habitats, which can make accounting for the effects of nature-based solutions difficult. The UK and its land managers also do not have the necessary skills, ranging from forestry and ecology to peatland restoration, to deliver nature-based solutions at scale.
Policy uncertainty, particularly around post-Brexit agricultural subsidies, is hindering the adoption of nature-based solutions. Nature-based solutions cannot be employed without the support of land managers, and particularly farmers. They need policy certainty and better communication and engagement from Government. The role of private and public investment in supporting nature-based solutions, and of nature-based solutions in any carbon offsetting scheme, need to be clarified.
“While the Government's plans for nature-based solutions are ambitious and have much potential to help the UK achieve net zero by 2050 as well as restore its natural environment, these plans are at severe risk of failure. They will not work without the support of farmers and land managers, and investment in the skills needed to restore nature.
“In the United Kingdom, 72 per cent of land is agricultural, so it is essential that farmers are fully engaged and supported by the Government. This support must take the form of: incentives; training; an advisory service; and support to adapt to changes in farming methods, subsidies, and land use. Key decisions must be made about how the UK should use its land and the role of nature and carbon markets in supporting nature restoration.
“The Committee’s recommendations are not only vital to help the Government achieve net zero by 2050 and restore the UK’s natural environment, but they can also help to address other societal challenges and secure an improved environment for future generations. The Glasgow Climate Pact, signed at COP26, emphasises the importance of “protecting, conserving, and restoring nature and ecosystems” to tackle climate change. The UK can still achieve this, but only with a renewed policy effort.”
The Committee had a number of recommendations for the Government to help achieve its net zero targets:
Support for research and demonstration projects, ranging from basic science to pilot projects, across the country in different marine and terrestrial habitats to clarify what actions and interventions are effective and quantify these effects.
A training and advisory service for farmers and land managers to help them negotiate a new and complex funding landscape, and to change land management practices where appropriate. Tenancy agreements may need to change to enable the costs and benefits to be shared between the tenant and landowner.
Guaranteed funding for land managers and farmers over the long term to ensure that they can take the right actions for the environment and stay in business.
A defined role for carbon and natural capital markets. A lack of regulation risks private investment being directed towards schemes that will provide few benefits for the environment and undermine the urgent effort to reduce emissions.
Explaining how competing demands on land will be balanced and how it will ensure environmentally damaging activities are not simply offshored.