Taking stock of COP26 – implications, challenges and solutions for the land-based sector

Wind turbines as seen from above

The UN Climate Change Conference [COP26] brought into sharp focus the reality of climate change and the scale of the challenge required to limit temperature rises. It was a global event of huge significance, involving a staggering 197 countries from around the world, and one could not help feeling challenged, both as a business and personally.

While it is fair to say that COP26 did not achieve all it set out to do, some significant progress was made.

Highlights included:

  • Cuts to emissions of carbon dioxide and a meeting to pledge further cuts to keep temperature rises within 1.5C;
  • Scheme to cut 30% of methane emissions by 2030;
  • Promise to stop deforestation by 2030.

For landowners and land managers, we believe some of the key implications include:

  • Emissions reduction across all areas including cultivations, livestock, fertilisers, machinery and property;
  • More nature-based solutions (e.g. tree planting and peatland restoration);
  • Growth in carbon markets and private and public schemes supporting change;
  • Greater focus on renewable energy.

In addition, there will be the unavoidable impacts of climate change even if 1.5C is achieved (e.g. hotter, drier summers, wetter winters, extreme weather events) and the associated effects on farming, forestry and land management.

The importance of land use and management for climate and nature was emphasised by COP26 President, Alok Sharma:

“If we are to limit global warming and keep the goal of 1.5C alive, then the world needs to use land sustainably and put protection and restoration of nature at the heart of all we do.”

We agree. Climate change mitigation and adaptation is critically important, however the challenges faced by landowners and managers are bigger and broader. Not only are we globally  facing a biodiversity crisis, there is also a need to address other environmental issues (e.g. soil, water and air quality) in a holistic and integrated way.  If this was not enough, farming, forestry and land management faces unprecedented change with the loss of Basic Payment Scheme, the emergence of Environmental Land Management (ELM) and similar schemes across the UK, new trading arrangements post-Brexit and the ongoing impacts of Covid on prices, markets and supply chains.  

At Cumulus, we understand these multiple pressures and have been grappling with them for years. We are constantly thinking through how best to guide landowners and managers for the long term through strategic and technical advice.

Natural capital services lie at the heart of our approach. We provide landowners with a ‘baseline’ assessment of their natural capital assets and building on related risks and opportunities identified, we offer strategic advice tailored to individual clients’ key priorities. The outcome: a practical, actionable plan focused on the long-term sustainability of their estate or farm.

We also offer carbon footprinting and plans to achieve net zero. We are continuing to develop our services in this area, with technology and collaboration playing a key role.

Paul Silcock, Managing Director of Cumulus said:

“COP26 is a wake-up call. The land-based sector faces big challenges, but there are also opportunities. We’d recommend every business or organisation looks at the issues holistically and makes a positive plan. Consider natural capital and climate change alongside economic, market and other factors.”

If you would like to know more about how you can adapt your business for a more sustainable future, please get in touch.