Zero Carbon Cumbria - Carbon reduction action across the county.

Farming and other land use

emissions Reduction and sequestration pathway


Executive summary

The priorities for farming and other land use include:

  • Reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from farming, degrading peat, and other land use activities.

  • Increasing the potential for forestry, wetlands and soil to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Tackling the emissions and building sequestration capacity will therefore play a huge role in reducing Cumbria’s overall carbon footprint. It would also result in many additional benefits.

Farm in Cumbria, hills and pasture

A vision for farming and other land use in Cumbria

Much of Cumbria’s essence lies in its farming, forestry, and expansive landscapes rich in tradition, diversity and beauty.

By 2037, Cumbria will be resilient, prosperous and sustainable in the use of its green space for business, pleasure and habitat preservation. Food production will lie at the centre of land management and will be delivered through a carefully balanced, multi-land use approach which nurtures carbon storage, biodiversity and regenerating land.  

Success will be reached through a collaborative and unified effort involving a diverse set of stakeholders, including government, businesses, farmers, communities, and nature, whose collective approach is to address the triple challenge of climate change, food security, and biodiversity loss in an integrated and equitable way.

Why farming and other land use?

Farming and other land use contributed a net figure of around 2 MtCO2e (18%) of Cumbria’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2019, which can be broken down into two areas:

  1. Land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), excluding agricultural methane, nitrous oxide emissions and agricultural energy usage. This includes:
  • Greenhouse gases from degrading peat within the estimated 88,000ha of Cumbrian peatlands.
  • Carbon sequestration (carbon storing) predominantly from forestry, which was around 600,000 tonnes (mainly forestry and wetlands) in 2019.

  1. Agricultural emissions and the energy used in agricultural buildings/processes.
  • Methane emissions from livestock
  • Nitrous oxide emissions from the use of fertiliser
  • Carbon emissions from the energy used in farm buildings and agricultural machinery/vehicles.

Cumbria is well positioned in terms of open space and sequestering potential, which needs to be maximised to a level at which it can offset the irreducible emissions from farming practices and livestock, and other sectors (like transport and consumption), to ensure we can achieve net zero as a county. However, there is a balance to be achieved so that farmers and growers can play a key role in reducing GHG emissions through adjusting farming practices whilst simultaneously protecting and regenerating nature and still producing the high quality foods for which they are renowned.

Amidst these efforts, they face the challenges and impacts from droughts, disease and floods.

Additional benefits

How do we achieve the vision?

The decarbonisation recommendation for LULUCF in the Summary of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Cumbria report, is for this sector to realise 1.27 MtCO2e through a combination of reduced land-based emissions and additional sequestration capacity by 2037.

To achieve the target for emission reduction/sequestration from land use, local habitat and peat data, together with the Sixth Carbon Budget targets have been used and adjusted to meet the 2037 objective.

For Cumbria this means an average of 70,630 tCO2e reduced/sequestrated per year from land use and forestry with a focus on:

  • Planting and protecting trees and hedgerows.
  • Expanding grazed and other habitats.
  • Restoring degraded peatlands.

In addition, the best achievable decarbonisation pathway for agricultural soils, livestock and energy use​ to reduce a significant proportion of the 1.9 MtCO2e. needs to be identified. This area is complicated by the mix of GHG being emitted and the need for greater understanding of the emission reduction impacts of certain interventions when delivered on the diverse mix of Cumbrian farm types. There is a commitment to continue to follow the science in this area to enable greater carbon counting accuracy in the future.

However, there are actions which can be taken in farming, such as improving soil health, sowing cover crops, and adopting renewable energy, that can enhance carbon sequestration or reduce GHG emissions.

The Emissions Reduction and Sequestration Pathway (ERSP) is a set of strategic priorities and proposed actions that have been developed collaboratively by the farming and other land use sector group comprising organisations that have an active role in farming, land management, nature and biodiversity, and food security in Cumbria. The Group has analysed a range of data and research, taken a deep dive into current and future local and national policy, identified stakeholders and explored examples of best practice and innovation in order to identify the strategic actions that would contribute most to significant emission reduction in the sector, whilst also delivering benefits for people and places.

Strategic priorities

Strategic priority 1.

Scaling up environmentally sustainable farming practices

Sustainable farming

Strategic priority 2.

Peatland restoration / management

Cumbrian Peatland

Strategic priority 3.

Afforestation / management of trees

Cumbrian woodland

Strategic priority 4.

Wider enabling actions

Sheep farming

For the full list of the 22 emission reduction and enabling actions which are proposed to deliver each strategic priority see the Farming and other land use Emission Reduction and Sequestration Action Plan (ERSAP). 

The ERSAP also identifies some of the key challenges, considerations and potential collaborators for each action. 

Who needs to be involved

Engagement and collaboration with residents, businesses, local authorities and other organisations in the county will be crucial to the successful delivery of the recommended actions. A range of organisations with an active role in farming, horticulture, land management and environmental protection have been identified that are rooted in place and are connected to their communities and which could progress the brokering of partnerships, refine the solutions and be key strategic delivery partners.  

The ZCC Partnership will continue to develop, review and update the pathway and actions, to ensure it reflects learning from new research and delivery of actions and any strategic changes including policy, legislation and technology.

Key documents

The Emissions Reduction Pathway sets out the strategic direction to reduce carbon emissions. It includes a carbon baseline, a vision for a net zero Cumbria, priority areas for reducing emissions and how we should tackle decarbonisation.

The Emissions Reduction Action Plan sets out detailed proposed actions for emissions reduction in each sector.  Actions are built around priority areas for decarbonisation,  identifying potential targets and key stakeholders for delivery

We welcome your feedback!

Your feedback is critical to the development of the plans. It will help inform the Cumbria-wide decarbonisation plan, due to be published at the end of the year. If you would like progress updates, please indicate that you would like us to contact you at the bottom of the form.

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