uk peatlands

Net zero goals need solutions from broader range of sectors, report says

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The UK should involve a broader array of experts in its plans to help it mitigate climate change through landscape management, a report has said.

The Landscape Decisions Programme, led by the University of Leicester, has called for more involvement from those knowledgeable in the arts, business owners, farmers, landowners, developers and investors, the study says.

The UKRI-funded 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.

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

Recommendations made by the interdisciplinary group include a greater focus on locally devolved decisions in land-use solutions. It said that a “one-size-fits all” approach to net zero landscape management could be damaging in certain environments.

Dr Beth Cole, lead author of the report, said: “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.”

Dr Katharine Earnshaw, a co-author of the report, 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, 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.”

Following the COP26 conference in November, a coalition of human rights and environmental groups criticised the overuse of carbon offsetting measures to counter high carbon business practices.

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