The number of sheep and cattle in the UK should be reduced by between a fifth and a half to help combat climate change, a report says. The shift is needed, the government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) maintains, because beef and lamb produce most greenhouse gases.
The report foresees an increase in the number of pigs and chickens because these produce less methane. Environmentalists say the recommendations are too timid. The farmers' union NFU welcomed the report.
The CCC says a 20-50% reduction in beef and lamb pasture could release 3-7m hectares of grassland from the current 12m hectares in the UK. The un-needed grassland could instead grow forests and bio-fuels that would help to soak up CO2.
The committee’s advice on producing less red meat is less radical than NHS Eatwell guidelines on healthy eating, which proposes a reduction in consumption of 89% for beef and 63% for lamb, and a 20% decline in dairy products.
The chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), Chris Stark, told BBC News: “Climate change is going to change the way the UK looks – and we also have to alter the way we use land so we don’t make climate change worse.
“Brexit offers the government the opportunity to introduce fundamentally new policies that will reward farmers for producing less greenhouse gases and for capturing carbon emissions.”
Carbon is stored in plants and in the soil, so the CCC recommends that farm subsidies should raise the proportion of UK land under forestry from 14% to 19%, and restore peat bogs.