Food, Land and Sea
- Developing demand for nutritious and sustainably-produced food.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving carbon storage from farming.
- Maximising carbon storage in the environment.
Emissions from the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) category are different from other categories because methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are the main emissions rather than carbon dioxide (CO2). Nitrous oxide emissions largely come from the application of manure and other organic fertilisers as well as chemical fertiliser to land, whilst methane is mainly produced by the digestion of food by cattle and sheep.
Emissions from AFOLU accounted for 17% of Devon’s GHG emissions in 2019.1 AFOLU is both a source of GHG emissions and provides opportunities for their removal.2 In addition to AFOLU emissions, the fossil fuels used in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors for machinery and processes contribute 4% of Devon’s total emissions, bringing the total for the sector to 21%. Solutions to reducing these emissions are described in the Energy Supply and Transport sections of this Plan.
This section describes what needs to happen to reduce net AFOLU emissions from food, land and sea based on the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC’s) Further Ambition Scenario.3 It introduces goals which will overcome the barriers to achieving net-zero, followed by the actions proposed to achieve the goals.
11.2 The Change Needed
- Develop demand for nutritious and sustainably-produced food.
- Reduce GHG emissions and improve carbon storage from farming.
- Maximise carbon storage in the environment.
11.2.1 Develop Demand for Nutritious and Sustainably-Produced Food
The UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) recommends we eat at least 20% less red meat and dairy which, in addition to reducing GHG emissions, would improve health. The average person in industrialised countries eats almost three times as much meat as is considered healthy (Figure 11.1).4
These changes are already happening: On average, we ate 36% less red meat in 2020 than in 2008. Over the same period, milk consumption has fallen 11%.5
11.2.2 Reduce GHG Emissions and Improve Carbon Storage from Farming
Soils are the second largest carbon store on the planet behind the oceans6 but soil carbon stocks have reduced over the past 200 years due to agricultural practices.7 There is an opportunity to help farmers and land managers change their practices.
Practices that enhance and maintain soil carbon are:8
- Regenerative farming. These include techniques that rotate crops with livestock grazing; reduce ploughing; and plant cover crops after the main crop has been harvested.
- Agroforestry. This incorporates trees, hedges and shrubs into cropland and grazing land.
- Pasture-based livestock farming. Animals raised solely on grass remove the need to grow supplementary feed, while the manures and plant roots improve soil health.
In addition to the practices above, there is evidence that organic farming can enhance and maintain soil carbon.9
The use of nitrogen fertilizer emits N2O to the atmosphere. Also, its manufacture is carbon intensive, and so its use should be minimised to the extent that crop yields are not substantially affected.
Net-zero will require the almost complete decarbonisation of on-farm machinery by switching to hydrogen, electricity, biomethane and robotics.9
Agricultural wastes and manures can be processed through anaerobic digestion (AD) to produce biomethane, which in turn can be used to generate electricity or power vehicles.
11.2.3 Maximise Carbon Storage in the Environment
The CCC uses trees, hedges and peatlands to illustrate the extent of carbon storage required to achieve net-zero. They require average woodland cover to increase from 13% now to 17% by 2050, hedgerow length to be increased nationally by 40% and for 55% of peatlands to be restored.10
11.3 Greenhouse Gas Outcomes
Figure 11.2 shows the GHG emissions arising from AFOLU and the use of fossil fuels by agriculture, forestry and fishing in the context of Devon’s total GHG emissions. Gross emissions from AFOLU in 2019 were 1.6Mt CO2e, and from fossil fuel were 0.26Mt CO2e. Carbon sequestration was -0.35Mt CO2e, meaning that net emissions were 1.5Mt CO2e. The Figure also shows the projected reduction trajectory for these to 2050 as a result of the delivery of the CCC’s Further Ambition Scenario aided by the actions in this Plan. Through the activities identified in this Plan, by 2050, the net-emissions, are expected to fall to -1.2Mt CO2e which will be used to offset emissions continuing from the transport, buildings and waste management sectors to achieve net-zero.
11.4 Other Opportunities and Benefits
- Restored and newly-created habitats will help address the ecological crisis.
- Enhancing Devon’s environment will improve our wellbeing through greater opportunities for contact with nature.
- Tree planting, improving soil carbon and restoring peat bogs, hedges and other habitats will reduce the rate that water moves through landscapes and help to reduce flood risk.
- Restored and newly-created habitats provide coastal protection from storms and sea level rise and provide habitat for commercially important fisheries.
- Employment opportunities will appear in growth sectors, such as forestry.
11.5 Devon’s Goals to Meet Net-Zero
Devon has seven goals relating to Food, Land and Sea for how we achieve Net-zero.
11.5.1 Goal FA – Everyone Can Choose a Healthy and Sustainable Diet
Healthy food choices are often the better choice for GHG emissions and nature. Following the government’s Eatwell Guide, which reduces the animal products we eat and increases our consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts and wholegrains, has a 32% lower environmental footprint than the typical UK diet.11 Additionally, local food produced with the environment in mind can have a lower environmental impact than food grown further afield.12 People need to be helped to become more aware of, and more engaged with, how their food choices affect their health and the environment.
‘Grow, Cook, Eat’ programmes can engage people with the enjoyment that can be gained from cooking, menu planning and enhanced cooking skills with fruit and vegetables to keep costs down.
The Devon Food Partnership, created following a recommendation of the Interim Devon Carbon Plan, is well placed to coordinate these activities.
F1. Support the Devon Food Partnership.
F1.1. Create local food retail areas.
F1.2. Bring local producers together in food hubs to enable joint processing, marketing and access to local markets.
F1.3. Promote a healthy and sustainably-produced diet, following the government’s Eatwell Guide.
F1.4. Provide Grow, Cook, Eat programmes to reconnect people with the origin and seasonality of food and develop cooking skills.
F2. Development plans to allocate land for horticulture near to settlements where suitable.
F3. Show support to government for the introduction of a food labelling system to highlight its environmental impact.
F4. Encourage central government to give preferential trade tariffs to food products that demonstrate food standards equivalent to UK.
11.5.2 Goal FB – Organisations are Serving Local, Sustainable and Healthy Food
Organisations, especially ‘anchor institutions’ (those that are unlikely to leave an area, such as the NHS, universities, local authorities and schools), can help to raise expectations in food provision and set an example for employees and others to follow. Organisations must commit to providing meals aligned with the Eatwell Guide.
The South West Food Hub,13 launched in May 2020, is establishing shorter supply chains between producers and public sector organisations to make it easier to serve local, seasonal, fresh produce.
F5. Anchor institutions to consider buying local through the South West Food Hub
F6. Organisations to provide meals aligned to the government’s Eatwell Guide and incentivise sustainable food-practices through procurement procedures.
11.5.3 Goal FC – Farmers and Land Managers Have Access to Impartial Advice, Demonstrator Projects and Resources for Low-Carbon Agriculture
This Plan recommends the creation of a one-stop-shop Devon Farm Advice Service. This will use independent farm advisors to help farmers across the whole farming sector to improve environmental outcomes in ways that maintain or increase profitability. Devon’s world-leading agricultural research institutions and Devon County Council’s 68 County Farms should be used to showcase breakthrough technologies and practices.
Some farms will need expensive equipment to transition their practices. The sharing of machinery should be supported because it reduces costs and provides more stable employment for workers that operate them.14
Labour shortages are currently a concern for much of Devon’s farming sector, as is accommodation in rural areas for those who work on farms. However, there is the potential for increased requirements for labour to implement regenerative practices in coming decades.15 Regenerative agriculture can need more permanent dwellings and accommodation for temporary/seasonal workers than may be expected in other forms of agriculture. Yet the availability of affordable dwellings for rural land workers is reducing.16 Development plans should respond to the distinctive workforce needs of horticulture and other smaller-scale, regenerative agricultural systems.
F7. Look to set-up a Devon Farm Advice Service.
F8. Support development of on-farm anaerobic digestion of agricultural wastes.
F9. Support the testing and adoption of low-carbon agricultural practices.
F10. Explore how the County farms estate could be used to demonstrate low-carbon agriculture.
F11. Support the sharing of agricultural machinery.
F12. Development plans to allow for greater scope in the provision of rural land workers’ accommodation.
Devon and Cornwall Soils Alliance17
The DCSA, launched in 2019, is led by the Westcountry Rivers Trust. It is a collection of private, public and third sector organisations and individuals with a shared interest in addressing the perilous state of our soils by building capacity and capability in soils advice.
The main deliverables include:
- 100+ advisors trained in soil management.
- 40+ mentors to share knowledge with others.
- 2 demonstration areas to showcase techniques to remedy compacted soils.
- 7 feasibility reports in catchments across Devon and Cornwall to highlight the diversity of soils across the region.
- 10 micro-catchment Natural Flood Management and Water Framework Directive investigations.
- 1 Devon and Cornwall Soil Carbon assessment benchmarking famers across the area.
The project has found that, in some areas, farming practices are not appropriate for the type of soil and that more fundamental changes are needed to deliver improved water and environmental quality. This will require incentives to encourage reduced animal stocking levels or shifting away from arable cropping.
11.5.4 Goal FD – The Potential for Land to Address the Climate and Ecological Emergencies is Being Used to Maximum Effect
Land is a limited resource and is under pressure from competing demands, such as food production, forestry, housing, infrastructure, water storage and space for wildlife. A Land Use Framework for Devon is required to establish the principles that can coordinate land-use decisions to achieve the best outcomes from land. Such outcomes include food production, carbon storage, habitat creation, energy generation, natural flood management and so on. Its preparation has begun.
The Land Use Framework will be founded on the requirements of nature. A Devon Local Nature Recovery Strategy will set out the priorities and actions required to achieve a Devon Nature Recovery Network (NRN) of joined-up habitats. This will identify suitable areas for tree planting and, with a Trees for Devon initiative, will ensure the right trees are planted in the right places.
F13. Develop a Land Use Framework.
F14. Develop a Local Nature Recovery Strategy and create and implement a Nature Recovery Network.
F15. Design and implement a Trees for Devon initiative.
11.5.5 Goal FE – Mechanisms and Funding are in Place to Protect, Restore and Enhance Nature-Based Carbon Storage
Financial incentives are required to encourage landowners and managers to make further environmental enhancements to their land. Opportunities to develop these include:
- Working closely with government to ensure the new Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS), which will pay for environmental outcomes alongside food production, is effective. This is replacing the financial support that was available from the European Union.
- Enabling land owners and managers to receive payments for creating carbon offsets, which organisations will need to purchase to compensate for their carbon emissions. Accreditation schemes are needed for wide range of habitats to give buyers confidence that the right amount of carbon has been stored.
New developments are required to provide ‘net gains for biodiversity’18 by creating or enhancing habitats to leave the environment in a better state than it was beforehand.19 Guidance needs to be prepared to assist developers to understand these new requirements. Similar net-gain requirements are needed for marine developments.
Habitat owners need to be able to publicise their willingness to host biodiversity net-gain and carbon offsetting projects and investors need to know where to find them. An online marketplace is needed to facilitate this trading.
F16. Create Biodiversity Net-Gain Planning Guidance.
F17. Develop an online investment platform to provide a match-making service between providers of environmental services and people wishing to purchase them.
F18. Support the development of carbon storage accreditation schemes for a range of carbon rich terrestrial, coastal and marine habitats.
F19. Work with government to design an effective Environmental Land Management Scheme that will ensure food production alongside carbon storage and other public goods.
F20. Work with government to require marine development to provide environmental net-gain.
11.5.6 Goal FF – Devon’s Coastal and Marine Habitats Have Been Protected, Restored and Enhanced
Some coastal and marine habitats store more carbon than forests20 but many are degraded due to pollution. Furthermore, these habitats are being over-exploited by some fishing activity21 and development for energy, telecommunications, aggregates, port facilities and recreation.22 There is an urgent need to protect, restore and enhance marine habitats. This needs a multi-pronged approach:
- Initially, a better understanding of the extent and condition of existing marine habitats and species is needed to provide a record of the services they provide, such as carbon storage, food, recreation opportunities, coastal defence and jobs. Valuing these ecosystem services will lead to greater environmental protection. North Devon’s Marine Natural Capital Plan23 already takes this approach.
- To achieve large-scale change, more whole-catchment projects involving collaboration between all the organisations working in river catchments are required to reduce water pollution along the full length of rivers and coastal areas. Additionally, awareness and concern must be raised about the link between the climate emergency and the disposal of chemicals used in gardens, household appliances, bathrooms and kitchens.
- Rising sea levels will reduce the extent of habitats where they are restricted from moving landward by coastal defences. Further opportunities for habitats to migrate inland need to be explored in the three Shoreline Management Plans covering Devon’s coastlines when they are next reviewed.
- There is need to provide more support to small-scale fisheries, establish additional Marine Protected Areas (in which activities like fishing are regulated) and make it easier for fishermen to recycle damaged fishing equipment to encourage less deliberate discarding.24
- Marine development needs to enhancing the ecosystem services provided by marine and coastal environments. Marine Plans are being prepared for all of England’s marine waters. Devon should continue to engage with the preparation of these plans.
F21. Devon Maritime Forum and Devon’s estuary partnerships to push for the aims and priorities set out in the Devon Carbon Plan to be incorporated within Marine Plans.
F22. Future reviews of Devon’s Shoreline Management Plans to enable, where possible, carbon-rich habitats to migrate inland with sea level rise.
F23. Develop and implement a South Devon Marine Natural Capital Plan.
F23.1. Establish and maintain an inventory of marine natural capital.
F23.2. Pilot initiatives which increase blue carbon sequestration.
F23.3. Provide support for smaller fisheries that implement sustainable practices.
F23.4. Trial new ecosystem approaches for fisheries management.
F23.5. Improve access to, and incentivise, shoreside disposal of old fishing equipment.
F23.6. Encourage behaviour change by enhancing public awareness of behaviours and activities that damage marine and coastal habitat.
F23.7. Work with government to introduce more marine protected areas and provide the resources necessary to protect and monitor them.
F23.8. Work with government for greater monitoring and enforcement of the dumping of fishing gear at sea.
F24. Develop more whole-catchment improvement projects.
Catchment Management in Devon
Devon is covered by four main catchments – Tamar, North Devon, South Devon and East Devon. Each of these has a catchment partnership – groups of organisations with an interest in improving the local environment.
The catchment-based approach is being demonstrated by various projects, three of which are:
- South West Water’s Upstream Thinking: This recognises that it is more cost effective to help farmers deliver cleaner raw water (water in rivers and streams) than it is to pay for the filtration of polluted water taken from rivers for drinking. Since 2010 the Upstream Thinking project has spent £20m restoring mires and Culm grasslands (that naturally filter water) and on providing pesticide advice and water-quality improvement infrastructure to farmers.25
- Connecting the Culm: This is testing ways of making river catchments more resilient to the impacts of climate change (mainly flooding and drought), using nature-based solutions and collaborating with people living in the Culm catchment to do so.
- The Triple Axe Project: This is piloting bespoke Farm Transformation Plans in the Axe Catchment which enable farms to either partly or completely restructure their operation in order to reduce their impacts on water quality, aid nature recovery and improve profitability.26
11.5.7 Goal FG – Environmental Law is Effectively Enforced
Existing environmental law to regulate environmentally harmful activities is not always enforced effectively. National government agrees27 and, in response, has created the Office for Environmental Protection. This independent body has the powers to investigate other public bodies that fail to exercise activities they are required to carry out under environmental law.28
Devon Climate Emergency partners must cooperate with the Office for Environmental Protection and support its establishment but also work with government to improve the availability of resources for enforcement activity.
F25. Work with government to improve the effectiveness of environmental legislation and resources for enforcement.
11.6 Summary of the Actions
Figures 11.3 and 11.4 below show the reference number and text of each Food, Land and Sea action in the Plan. The anticipated start and duration of each action is shown on the right-hand side of the diagram.
The actions with their duration highlighted in red in Figures 11.3 and 11.4 have been identified as a priority through two processes. First, the Net Zero Task Force assessed each action’s potential to contribute to emissions reductions and the likelihood they can be implemented in a timely fashion. Second, some actions were highlighted as priorities by respondents to the public consultation.
For more detail, including who can help to deliver these actions, see the full action table.
Delivering the actions in this section of the Plan will help to achieve the milestones in Figure 11.5 below. These milestones reflect the Climate Change Committee’s Further Ambition Scenario.
1 Mitchell A. et al. (2020) Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report – Devon, Plymouth, Torbay 2019. Centre for Energy and Environment, University of Exeter. Available at: https://www.devonclimateemergency.org.uk/studies-and-data/devons-carbon-footprint/
2 Smith P. et al. (2014) Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU). In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., R. et al. (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. Available at: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter11.pdf
3 Lash, D. et al. (2020) Net Zero Devon, Plymouth and Torbay. Centre for Energy and the Environment, University of Exeter. Available at: https://www.devonclimateemergency.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/DPT-net-zero-report-v1-140820.pdf
4 EAT-Lancet Commission (2020) The Planetary Health Diet and You. Available at: https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/the-planetary-health-diet-and-you/
5 Defra (2022) Family Food Datasets 19/20 – UK Household Purchases. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/family-food-datasets
6 European Environment Agency (2015) Soil and Climate Change. Available at: https://www.eea.europa.eu/signals/signals-2015/articles/soil-and-climate-change
7 Sanderman, J. et al. (2017) Soil Carbon Debt of 12,000 Years of Human Land Use. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114 (36) Available at: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1706103114
8 CPRE (2018) Food and Farming Foresight Paper 3. Back to the land: rethinking our approach to soil. Available at: https://www.cpre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/CPRE_FF3_Soil_26Nov_web.pdf
9 Gattinger, A. (2012) Enhanced Top Soil Carbon Stocks Under Organic Farming. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114 (36). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1209429109
10 Climate Change Committee (2019) Net-zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming. Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/net-zero-the-uks-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming/
11 Carbon Trust (2016) The Eatwell Guide: A More Sustainable Diet. Available at: https://www.carbontrust.com/resources/the-eatwell-guide-a-more-sustainable-diet
12 Stein, A.J., Santini, F. (2022) The sustainability of “local” food: a review for policy-makers. Rev Agric Food Environ Stud. 103, 77–89. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41130-021-00148-w
13 The South West Food Hub (Unknown), Home Page. Available at: https://www.thesouthwestfoodhub.co.uk/
14 Teagasc (2021) Machinery Cooperatives in Ireland. Available at: https://www.teagasc.ie/news–events/daily/farm-business/machinery-co-operatives-in-ireland.php
15 Bradford, J (2019) The Future Is Rural. Post Carbon Institute. Available at: https://www.arc2020.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Bradford_The-Future-Is-Rural_2019_compressed.pdf
16 Dartmoor National Park Authority (2021) Dartmoor Local Plan 2018 – 2036. Available at: https://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/living-and-working/business/planning-policy/local-plan
17 Westcountry Rivers Trust (2020) Devon and Cornwall Soils Alliance. Available at: https://wrt.org.uk/project/dcsa/
18 DLUHC (2012) National Planning Policy Framework, Section 15 – Conserving and Enhancing the Natural Environment. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-planning-policy-framework/15-conserving-and-enhancing-the-natural-environment
19 Planning Advisory Service (Unknown) Biodiversity Net Gain. Available at: https://www.local.gov.uk/pas/topics/environment/biodiversity-net-gain
20 IUCN (2020) Issues Brief: Blue Carbon. Available at: https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/blue-carbon
21 UN Environment Programme (2018) Business unusual: How “fish carbon” stabilizes climate. Available at: https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/business-unusual-how-fish-carbon-stabilizes-our-climate
22 Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (2011) Marine Planning. https://www.parliament.uk/globalassets/documents/post/postpn388_Marine-Planning.pdf
23 North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (2020) North Devon Marine Natural Capital Plan. https://www.northdevonbiosphere.org.uk/uploads/1/5/4/4/15448192/north_devon_marine_plan_final_version_approval__1_.pdf
24 Defra (2019) Evidence Review of Abandoned, Lost or otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear. Available at: http://sciencesearch.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=14883_ME5232ALDFGevidencereview_Final.pdf
25 Catchment Based Approach (Unknown) Upstream Thinking. Available at: https://catchmentbasedapproach.org/learn/upstream-thinking/
26 Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (2022) Triple Axe Project. Available at: https://blackdownhillsaonb.org.uk/project/triple-axe-project/
27 Defra (2021) Environmental Governance Factsheet (Parts 1 and 2). Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/environment-bill-2020/10-march-2020-environmental-governance-factsheet-parts-1-and-2
28 Office for Environmental Protection (Unknown) What we can investigate. Available at: https://www.theoep.org.uk/what-we-can-investigate