Farming and land use falling behind in race to net zero, new analysis shows

New analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit shows that progress to decarbonise farming and land use is off track in England.

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By George Smeeton

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Ahead of the publication of the Climate Change Committee’s annual progress report [1], new analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) shows that progress to decarbonise farming and land use is off track in England, leaving the sector lagging behind other sectors in the race to net zero by 2050.

Recently published provisional woodland creation figures [2] show only 3130 hectares of woodland created in England in 2023, against a target of 7500 hectares by 2025. Unpublished peatland restoration figures for 2022 released to ECIU by Defra show 4323 hectares under restoration, nearly 10,000 hectares short of the annual amount needed by 2025. Uptake of low carbon farming practices is in reverse according to data published earlier this month [3], with 53% of farmers taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2023, down from 66% in 2020 and 17 percentage points away from the target of 70% by 2025.

Commenting on the new analysis [4] published ahead of the CCC’s progress report [4], Tom Lancaster, Land Analyst at ECIU said: “The government’s plans to decarbonise farming and land use lack both substance and credibility. In many areas, such as peatland restoration and woodland creation, progress is too slow and policies are not capable of operating at the scale needed to meet the recently published targets in the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan [6].

“In other areas, including reducing methane emissions from livestock, reducing emissions from lowland peat and increasing the production of energy crops, there is very little progress at all, and in some cases no policies in place to get it started. This is in the context of already unambitious plans for farming and land use that will see it double its share of UK emissions from around 11% to 19% by 2037. With poor progress even against these plans, it’s possible that farming and land use could be the sector with the largest share of total UK emissions by the end of the 2030s.

“Farming is perhaps more exposed to climate change than any other sector. Reducing emissions is key to mitigating these impacts. Many of these measures, such as agro-forestry, will also help farmers adapt and build resilience, but urgent progress is needed to get farming and land use back on track to net zero.”


Notes to editors:

  1. The Climate Change Committee is due to publish their annual ‘Progress in reducing emissions’ Report to Parliament on Wednesday 28th June
  4. The full analysis is available here:

For more information:

George Smeeton, Head of Communications, ECIU, Tel: 07894 571 153, email: