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Greenhouse gases down overall, but not in agriculture

In 2016, UK emissions of the basket of seven greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol were estimated to be 467.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). This represents a fall of 5% compared to 2015 and 41% below 1990 levels, according to new data released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

That was the good news. In agriculture it was a different story. Between 1990 and 2016 emissions from the sector have fallen 16%, driven by a fall in animal numbers and reductions in synthetic fertiliser use. But progress has seemingly come to a halt: there was “very little change” in emissions between 2015 and 2016, BEIS noted.

Indeed, there has been little change in the past six years. Given that the sector represents 10% of all UK emissions, this is reason for concern.

In July last year the Committee on Climate Change, which tracks the country’s progress towards the 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 target in the Climate Change Act, urged DEFRA to come up with a plan to cut emissions further and faster.

As reported by Footprint at the time, the CCC said financial support after Brexit could be linked more closely to reduction of emissions, for example. In the longer-term demand-side measures such as diet change and reducing food waste will be needed to make deeper cuts in agricultural emissions beyond 2030, the committee noted.