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UK Farming and Land Use:
Addressing the Climate and Ecological Emergencies while Supporting Farmers

What does sustainable farming in the UK look like?

We're aiming to bring the latest scientific evidence to the contentious and emotive debate around what truly sustainable farming and land use in the UK should look like.

 

Farmers are being asked to deliver greater food production, restore nature, capture carbon and provide sustainable livelihoods for rural communities. And to do this while facing the ever-increasing impacts of climate change, which afflict the land as droughts, floods and heatwaves. Farmers are saying the current situation isn’t sustainable, but there are many questions and conflicting answers about what is.

We've researched 15 questions looking at all areas of farming, from regenerative agriculture and the effects of grazing on biodiversity, to new technologies to reduce methane and energy use of vertical indoor farming.

 

Bringing together our experience working with mulitple clients and the latest scientific evidence we give 15 answers. Each answer is nuanced but there are some general conclusions that can be drawn from them collectively:
 

  • There is a role for livestock in regenerative farming, although in lower numbers than current stocking levels.
     

  • Regenerative farming does improve biodiversity, soil health and carbon storage. Reducing livestock numbers would allow more land for crop production and some land to be restored as woodlands, peatlands and wetlands, which would be even more effective for biodiversity and carbon storage.
     

  • New technologies relating to livestock, including methane-reducing breeds and diets, should be pursued but not relied upon as a sole solution. We need to deploy all the available options to reduce emissions.
     

  • While there is a role for regenerative livestock farming, the need to reduce meat and dairy consumption is also clear-cut; this will both reduce agricultural emissions and free up land for other uses, both in the UK and worldwide.
     

  • A more plant-based food system would allow the UK to reduce imports and increase food security.
     

  • Farmers’ current practices and cultural identities are already being threatened by the effects of climate change as floods, heatwaves and droughts alter our landscapes.
     

  • Farmers will need support across policy and society so that they can lead the rest of society to a sustainable food and farming system, and safeguard their communities and livelihoods against the impacts of climate change.
     

  • Farmers need to be central participants in the debate on sustainable farming, and clear evidence-based answers will aid them as well as all other parties involved.


We've also set out 5 principles for how to have a constructive debate, including being open-minded and honouring the best evidence as it becomes available. 

We strive to follow these principles ourselves, and welcome new evidence and engagement with all parties so that together we can see what sustainable farming in the UK truely will look like.

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