Landscapes are an integral part of the net-zero challenge; not only are they carbon stores but they constitute the environments upon which humans develop their livelihoods, interact and shape their cultures.
This report focuses on three key landscape types (agricultural, peatlands and forests), and the associated practices and impacts with particular relevance to the net zero carbon agenda.
We have brought together perspectives from natural and social science, humanities, and the arts to understand and evaluate how modern landscapes can absorb the impact of potential zero-carbon policies.
• There are multiple contradictions in the pathways towards achieving net zero carbon targets that include a loss in the benefits of biodiversity, human well being and cultural knowledge of the landscape.
• To mitigate these contradictions three key recommendations have been identified: (i) invest in transdisciplinary approaches for landscape management decisions, (ii) ensure the right ecosystem is promoted in the right place (no single land-use solution should be prioritised above others), and (iii) increase local and devolved decision making capabilities.
• Scientific approaches based on robust ‘evidence’ and aggregated data are still an essential ingredient in understanding landscape functions and that is key to the net-zero agenda.
• To achieve a transformative change it is not enough to just understand the importance of the landscape functions alone, but we need to place them in the social framing of landscape decisions.
• Swift action is essential, otherwise we head deeper towards an inability to reach net zero carbon targets, contribute to biodiversity collapse and, promote societal disengagement with landscapes.
• Setting the agenda for a net zero carbon target is an opportunity to review and renew existing policies and learn lessons from the consequences of past decisions.