Agroecology and the CCC progress report

The inclusion of agroecology is encouraging but its full potential will be lost if treated as just a set of farming practices.

4th July 2022

The inclusion of agroecology in last week’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) progress report is encouraging ahead of the anticipated final CCC Rapid Evidence Review. However, there is a risk that the full potential of agroecology will be lost if it is seen as just a set of farming practices.

The Committee is calling for a comprehensive UK land and agriculture decarbonisation strategy and this is exactly what an agroecological transition plan could provide. Against the backdrop of the Committee’s concerns that current government plans are backed by overly optimistic assessments of the potential for innovation and productivity improvements, agroecology is a whole-system change which offers a suite of practices, pathways and technologies for farm businesses to move towards low-carbon farming right now.

The modelling for how agroecology could effectively feed a growing UK population, deliver for climate, species abundance and more is set out in FFCC’s report Farming for Change. Critically, agroecology is a way to provide a just transition for people living and working in rural areas, supporting landscapes and communities to adapt to climate change.

As the CCC progress report emphasises, this involves getting to grips with demand. Recent research by Chatham House, commissioned by FFCC, shows how addressing consumption at one end of the food system can ease the pressures on land at the other, paving the way for an agroecological transition which releases land for peat restoration and tree planting.

Agroecology integrates approaches across policy areas, and we hope to draw the committee’s attention to these points below:

  • Agroecology comes into its own as a solution for Net Zero when its sequestration potential is included, and when, as a system and practice of farming, it is pursued as a broad pathway across all farmland, rather than restricted in the margins of productive land.
  • Farming for Change modelling shows that agroecology can land spare and land share, freeing land up to deliver deep emissions reduction, as well as deliver reductions within the farmed landscape itself, a win-win for climate.
  • Alternative approaches to the UK's farming system, that pursue cheap food and seek to silo food production and nature, risk significant unintended consequences of increased demand, that in turn jeopardise Net Zero outcomes - also highlighted in the Chatham House report
  • The UK's offshore emissions also play a role in this modelling. Intensive livestock farming uses imported protein feed and causes deforestation, a significant but invisible factor in the UK's emissions balance sheet. A broad agroecological approach across UK land would remove this dependency, and reduce the extent to which we offshore emissions.
  • It is both essential and possible for government to regulate to speed progress. Markets can be harnessed to accelerate change and deliver for Net Zero: a piece of the puzzle which sees increased dietary shift and greater potential for agroecology to deliver emissions reductions.