The report from Energy Systems Catapult warns livestock production for dairy and meat may need to be halved
The UK needs to scale up on innovations in agriculture to reach its 2050 net-zero target, according to a new report.
Analysis compiled by government-funded research group Energy Systems Catapult (ESC), highlights that Britain must further invest in low-carbon technology, land use and lifestyle if it is to meet the climate target set out by former prime minister Theresa May in June last year.
The report, Innovating to Net Zero, warns that livestock production for dairy and meat may need to be cut by up to 50% to help reduce emissions in the industry.
The report modelled 100s of pathways for the UK to eradicate greenhouse gas emissions, through scaling up or down on technologies and behaviour changes to “understand the combinations, interactions and trade-offs of competing decarbonisation approaches”.
ESC insight and evidence lead Scott Milne said each potential pathway broadly uses a combination of two different approaches — a top-down technology-focused approach or a bottom-up behaviour-focused approach.
“But what stands out — no matter which pathway the UK takes — is innovation, investment and incentives across low-carbon technology, land use and lifestyle is essential to achieve net zero,” he added.
“And there are massive economic opportunities for the UK to lead the world in these areas.”
Why the UK needs to scale-up innovations in agriculture to reach net zero
The report found that to meet the net-zero target, the UK will need “unprecedented innovation across the economy”.
It says this innovation will be required not just in new technologies, but in new ways of deploying existing technologies, new business models, new consumer offerings, new policy, regulation and market design.
While the challenge is potentially daunting, ESC says the commercial opportunity for companies able to deliver the innovations required is “huge”.
The researcher claims its analysis will help identify those opportunities, and what may be needed to unlock them.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent adviser to the UK parliament, previously recommended that Britain may have to cut livestock production for dairy and meat by 20%.
Data shows that reducing meat and dairy production by 20% would deliver, by 2050 compared to current figures, a saving of 8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtC02e) – a standard unit for measuring carbon footprint, to express the impact of each individual greenhouse gas.
But ESC believes the actual figure could be as high as 50%, which could lead to a saving of 19MtC02e, depending on low-carbon deployment in the coming years.
The report also revealed the country may need to plant a forest of about 50,000 hectares every year for carbon sequestration and offsetting up to 33 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2050.
That would be about twice the size of Birmingham, the second-largest city in the UK.
To further reduce emissions, the analysis highlights that biomass crops could be regularly harvested for energy, coupled with carbon capture and storage (CCS), as this would offer “more intensive and indefinite sequestration”.