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Plant between 90 and 120 million trees to help the UK reach its net zero emissions target by 2050. That's one of the suggestions listed in a new report released today by the Committee on Climate Change.

A detailed examination of the UK's agricultural and land policies, it highlights five ways in which greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced through changes made to farming and land use, as well as consumer habits.

Boosting UK forestry cover from 13% to 17% by 2050 was one of the key proposals, while encouraging reduced consumption of beef, lamb and dairy – 'the most carbon-intensive foods' – by 20% per person, was another.

The production of animal-based proteins commonly leaves a greater carbon footprint than that which is plant-based. Reducing the UK's reliance on the former could not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also release land currently occupied by livestock for other use, the report noted.

While it acknowledged the emerging trend in vegan and vegetarian diets - and clear evidence of readiness among Brits to reduce or eliminate meat intake - it said trends alone would likely not be enough to meet the 2050 target, and a tax on meat and dairy may need to be introduced.

Other recommendations laid out in the report include the introduction of low-carbon farming practices - using 'controlled-release' fertilisers, for instance, and adding feed additives to livestock diets to reduce methane emissions; the restoration of peatlands - prohibiting rotational burning of heather on grouse moors; reducing food waste; and increasing the production of bioenergy crops.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC, said: “Changing the way we use our land is critical to delivering the UK’s net zero target.

“The options we are proposing would see farmers and land managers – the stewards of the land – delivering actions to reduce emissions.”

He added, “Doing so can provide new revenue opportunities for farmers, better air quality and improved biodiversity, and more green spaces for us all to enjoy. But major changes are required and action from government is needed quickly if we are to reap the rewards.”

Last year, the government announced a net-zero emissions target for 2050 and became the world's first major economy to pass legislation to that effect. 'Net-zero' refers to the offsetting of all carbon emissions, achievable through initiatives such as planting trees or using carbon sequestration technology.


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