Knowledge for better food systems

Committee on Climate Change: Third Progress Report

The Committee on Climate Change has published its third annual report to Parliament on the progress that Government is making in meeting carbon budgets and in reducing GHG emissions.The CCC’s report finds that emissions increased by 3% in 2010, mainly as a result of the colder winter months. After adjusting for weather impacts, emissions were broadly flat. It says that this is incompatible with the 3% annual average emissions reduction required to meet the first four carbon budgets and that a significant acceleration in the pace of emissions reductions is therefore required.

The Committee on Climate Change has published its third annual report to Parliament on the progress that Government is making in meeting carbon budgets and in reducing GHG emissions.The CCC’s report finds that emissions increased by 3% in 2010, mainly as a result of the colder winter months. After adjusting for weather impacts, emissions were broadly flat. It says that this is incompatible with the 3% annual average emissions reduction required to meet the first four carbon budgets and that a significant acceleration in the pace of emissions reductions is therefore required.

While emissions in 2010 were within the limits of the first carbon budget, this was due to the impact that the recession had in 2009, which reduced emissions by 9%.The report highlights 2 crucial areas of Government policy to drive down emissions:

  1. It recommends that in its forthcoming White Paper (July this year) the Government should announce new electricity market arrangements based on long term contracts (“contracts for differences”). It stresses the need for a smooth transition from current arrangements to support renewable generation in order to avoid an investment hiatus.
  2. It recommends that as part of the Green Deal, the Government should commit to ambitious targets to insulate all lofts and cavity walls by 2015, and 2 million solid walls by 2020. It further recommends that energy companies should be required to deliver these targets or equivalent emissions reductions under the proposed Energy Company Obligation.

 

The report also shows the need to outperform the currently legislated first three budgets in order to make the fourth carbon budget feasible, and to do this without the purchase of offset credits.

 

More specifically on agriculture the report says:

  • Agriculture emissions fell by 1% in 2009. This reduction means that agriculture is broadly on track to meet the 1st carbon budget.
  • The existing evidence base is incomplete and more evidence about farming practices and an improved inventory are needed to effectively monitor performance.
  • There is scope for strengthening policies at both UK and EU level (eg by strengthening the Nitrates Directive and increasing support for anaerobic digestion).
  • It recommends that:
    • The Government’s policy review in 2012 includes: an assessment of the full range of policy options available to reduce emissions in this sector; and performance triggers for the introduction of new policies.
    • The Government supports proposals to link support under the Common Agricultural Policy  to the take up of emissions reduction measures (eg. nutrient management, livestock breeding and feeding strategies, anaerobic digestion, improved pastures and grasses, manure management) and to into incentivise uptake of low or zero cost measures.
  • To prepare for emission reductions in the 2020s, the Government should consider more ambitious policies in the areas of consumer behaviour change, waste reduction and modification of diets.

More detail on agriculture:

As to why emissions fell, the report states that “The reduction in emissions since 2007 reflects reductions in production and changes in its composition (e.g. increased share of white meat) and yields.”.  Elsewhere it also notes that “Total UK meat consumption has fallen by around 3% since 2003 and 5% since 2007. The decline since 2007 coincided with big price increases for all food products. Imports of livestock fell by 4% between 2003 and 2009.”

On uncertainty in emission factors and mitigation potential, the report says:  “The combination of these uncertainties [regrding the level of emissions and what farm practice actually is] is that agricultural emissions could be 60% lower and up to 150% higher than currently recorded in the inventory.

It also points out that government ambitions for mitigation in agriculture are weak (3 MT CO2eq for England – or 4.5MT CO2  eq when grossed up to the UK) relative to the abatement potential identified by the CCC in its commissioned research.

Indeed, the CCC says that its research shows that in addition to the government’s 4.5MT CO2  eq reduction goal, there is scope for further emission reductions (e.g. up to around 15 MtCO2e) through supply side measures (note that this is the SAC MAC curves work which you read here: )

In addition, reduced waste and ‘diet rebalancing’  show ‘significant scope’ for emissions reductions and both should be ‘seriously considered.’ 

  • New policies to encourage reduced waste by households could result in annual emission reductions of up to 3 MtCO2e from reduced agricultural production with a further reduction in land fill emissions of around 1 MtCO2e.
  • Rebalancing of diets away from red meat and dairy produce offers significant potential for emission reductions (e.g. up to 15 MtCO2e) whilst maintaining nutritional balance, improving health and freeing up land. Given the need for further deep cuts in agricultural emissions over the next decades, the full range of levers to encourage behaviour change (e.g. information provision through to taxation) should be considered.

To read the report or various summary versions see here:

 

 

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