Wider solutions required to meet net zero carbon targets

A report created by researchers from the University of Leicester have stressed the requirement for wider reaching solutions to allow the UK to meet climate targets.

What is needed to make net zero carbon attainable in the UK?

The Landscape Decisions Programme, a collaborative study led by the University of Leicester, has published a new research report. The report stresses the potential negative impact of existing pathways to net zero climate targets, which include losses in the benefits of biodiversity, human wellbeing, and cultural knowledge of the landscape.

Dr Beth Cole, lead author, and senior research fellow for the Landscape Decisions Programme based at the University of Leicester stressed: “To reach the net zero goals we need to make some challenging decisions about the way we use, manage, and interact with landscapes in the UK.

“These landscape decisions are dependent upon many factors including the environmental characteristics, and the geographic location of the land, but in this report, we also consider the wider social framing of these decisions and call for inclusive, place-specific net zero practices within landscapes that support both biodiversity and people.

“Collaborating across disciplines this group of researchers together make a team that is greater than the sum of its parts and who have broken down some of the silos this urgent issue is normally approached from.”

What will the UK need to do to reach their net zero carbon target by 2050?

The UK government has previously set a net zero target of 2050, through a proposed reduction in greenhouse gas emissions with new carbon capture technologies, and better management of carbon sinks, such as, peatlands and forests.

Recommendations made by the research group include a greater focus on locally devolved decisions in land-use solutions, as a one-size-fits all approach to net zero landscape management could be damaging in certain environments.

As well as studying the physical impact of landscape decisions, these should be taken within the full context of the social consequences of these changes; for example, in the case of sudden large-scale changes to farming.

Dr Katherine Earnshaw, co-author based in the University of Exeter’s Department of Classics and Ancient History, said: “We have an urgent need to think about the culture of change – not just what could be possible on paper. This means a better consideration of the whole picture: social and ethical ideas – the habits of thinking – alongside empirical evidence, taking account of past, present, and future.

“This novel report demonstrates the genuine benefits of working across different subjects and with communities and businesses so that we do not reproduce the inequalities that have led us to this crisis.”

Professor Simon Willcock, co- author from Bangor University, added: “Obviously, there is an urgent need to move towards net zero landscape decisions to limit the impacts of climate change. However, landscape changes impact a great variety of things – from the carbon and water cycles to biodiversity and local peoples.

“Only by making interdisciplinary decisions that take these many things into account can we move towards achieving sustainability more broadly – benefiting people and nature. Our report highlights this and provides key recommendations as to how net-zero can be achieved more inclusively.”

What does this report mean for the future?

Professor Heiko Balzter, Professor of Physical Geography at the University of Leicester concluded: “Our landscapes in the UK are about to change faster than they have done in a long time. These changes are driven by the urgent need to prevent catastrophic climate change by achieving net zero emissions no later than 2050, reversing the loss of many endangered animal and plant species, as well as improving food security and livelihoods of our farmers.

“This report highlights some key recommendations for decision-makers on ethical consideration, participatory approaches and the trade-offs and synergies between different goals and interventions.”

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