Shaping UK land use: priorities for food, nature and climate

Think tank: Green Alliance

Author(s): Lydia Collas; Dustin Benton

January 20, 2023

This report from UK think tank Green Alliance looks at how to transition rural land use to restore nature and achieve net zero globally.

Rural land use must change to restore nature and achieve net zero globally. Instead of being a source of emissions, it must remove carbon from the atmosphere, while also making space for nature and food production. The UK is at the forefront of this transition because it has ambitious nature and climate laws, and because it is reforming its farm payments regime after Brexit. Much is at stake: how and what food is produced and consumed, the character and economic status of rural livelihoods, and the scale of negative emissions required, will all be determined by land use choices the UK makes. This report models five land use scenarios that achieve net zero carbon emissions and food goals, with differing impacts on the abundance of wildlife. Our research finds that funding farmers to manage land for nature and the climate would make most of them better off and cost the taxpayer 1.6 times less overall than a scenario where engineered greenhouse gas removals were primarily used to meet net zero. Without a clear framework, it is much more likely that business as usual, including declining nature, will continue.