Climate change: Regenerative farming 'could slash emissions equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road'

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Nature-friendly farming could dramatically slash the UK's carbon emissions, equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road, according to a new WWF-UK report.

The charity says introducing measures like ditching artificial fertiliser or boosting hedgerows would save even more emissions then previously estimated by the government's independent advisers, the Climate Change Committee.

From flower-rich meadows and fragile peatlands to saltmarshes and seagrass meadows, nature needs bringing back to life around the UK, one one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth.

The food system is the main driver of the widespread loss of nature in Britain, WWF's Land of Plenty report warns.

Over 70% of British land is used for agriculture, and the way we use the land is responsible for 12% of our territorial greenhouse gas pollution.

"We know in order to meet our net zero targets, but also to [restore nature], that land and food and agriculture need to be a central part of the plan," WWF's Katie White told Sky News. But "they aren't there" in the plan at the moment, she said.

The report accuses Westminster of a "missed opportunity" in its Net Zero Strategy, somewhat hurried out in October, to tackle emissions from farming and land use.

"This report is trying to fill that gap, and call on government to come forward with that low-carbon, nature-friendly plan for farming, to support farmers, to be on the frontline of tackling climate change and the nature crisis," Ms White said.

In January, the government unveiled part of its post-Brexit overhaul of payments for landowners, with plans to protect up to 2.3% of England - though commentators warned much greater protection was needed.

It said all UK governments must "urgently deliver decarbonisation strategies for the farming and land use sectors if the UK is to hit crucial climate targets", calling for incentives to help protect and restore critical habitats and ways to accelerate diet-change.

It also said the sector's overseas footprint should be tackled by reducing demand for animal feed, especially soy, and rid supply chains of deforestation.

Read more: Cautious welcome for 'globally significant' plans to pay farmers to adopt climate-friendly practices

'Acutely affected' farmers

WWF also calls for a just transition for livestock farmers, as dietary shifts accelerate towards plant-based options.

Matt Williams, from think tank ECIU, said farmers are "especially exposed" to extreme weather events that affect harvests, and are "acutely affected" by rising fossil fuel prices driving up the cost of energy and fertilisers.

"If the UK is to meet its net zero ambitions and maintain its international climate reputation, then making farming climate-friendly and restoring the UK's natural carbon sponges will need to be treated with the same urgency as cutting emissions from energy or transport," he said.

A spokesperson for England's environment department said they had "already set out ambitious plans" to reward farmers for environmentally friendly actions, which will "[support] sustainable food production alongside vital nature recovery and work towards net zero."

More than 3,000 farmers are trialling the plans, which Defra says will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, halt the decline in species, increase woodland, improve water and air quality and create more space for nature.

Watch the Daily Climate Show at 8.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

The show investigates how global warming is changing our landscape and highlights solutions to the crisis.

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