PROGRESS to decarbonise farming has been described as off track, in England, leaving the sector lagging behind others in the race to net zero by 2050, according to experts.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), an independent advisory organisation, said the government’s plans to decarbonise farming and land use "lacks both substance and credibility".

Recently published provisional woodland creation figures show only 3130 hectares of woodland created in England in 2023, against a target of 7500 hectares by 2025.

Unpublished peatland restoration figures for 2022 released to ECIU by Defra show 4,323 hectares under restoration, nearly 10,000 hectares short of the annual amount needed by 2025.

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And uptake of low carbon farming practices is in reverse according to data published earlier this month, with 53% of farmers taking action to reduce emissions in 2023.

This is down from 66% in 2020 and 17 percentage points away from the target of 70% by 2025.

Commenting on the new analysis, Tom Lancaster, analyst at ECIU, said that in many areas, such as peatland restoration and woodland creation, progress was too slow.

"Policies are not capable of operating at the scale needed to meet the recently published targets in the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan," he said.

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“In other areas, including reducing methane emissions from livestock, reducing emissions from lowland peat and increasing the production of energy crops, there is very little progress at all, and in some cases no policies in place to get it started.

"This is in the context of already unambitious plans for farming and land use that will see it double its share of UK emissions from around 11% to 19% by 2037.

"With poor progress even against these plans, it’s possible that farming and land use could be the sector with the largest share of total UK emissions by the end of the 2030s."