Gains in production efficiency on farms “are not enough to address the need for the reduction in total emissions”, according to the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) in its Annual Review 2021.

The review, released this morning (Wednesday, December 8), said improvements in carbon efficiency are being recorded. However, despite that, agriculture “is not on a sustainable path” the council said.

The CCAC said that the Ag Climatise roadmap strategy will need to be implemented and augmented in the coming years.

According to the council, the key areas for action in agriculture are:

  • Nitrous oxide emissions must be substantially reduced;
  • The need to manage livestock numbers within “biophysical boundaries”;
  • Efforts “must be intensified” to find ways to reduce methane emissions at scale;
  • Policy should focus more on nature-based carbon removals;
  • Long-term land use strategy is required.

The CCAC notes that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can be used as an instrument of change, while enhancing research and providing advisory support for farmers and farmer-driven partnerships can enhance practice.

According to the council, the uptake in afforestation is not sufficient, despite “generous incentives”, highlighting that other market, regulatory and cultural barriers “need to be addressed”.

The report also cited work by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which claimed that moving away from animal-based diets would have climate mitigation potential as well as improved health outcomes.

The CCAC highlighted that engagement with stakeholders will be important to ensure that the farming community benefits from the necessary changes in land use – including a focus on jobs and training for new opportunities in sustainability innovations.

The report also calls for innovation in agricultural policy to be matched by innovation in land use policy and planning.

It went on to say that any strategic approach for agriculture should “dovetail rural development and enhance farmers’ livelihoods”, along with environmental sustainability and public health.

“Through applying a ‘systems lens’ on food and agriculture, policy can identify and promote win-wins, and manage tradeoffs, to secure a just transition and resilient outcomes, while pursuing opportunities for sustainability innovations,” the report noted.

This requires not just “consideration of production levels and sustainable intensification” but an “integrated, holistic approach that balances the variety of economic, social and environmental objectives that are relevant to food, agriculture and public policy”, according to the report.