How could Wales feed itself in 2035?

To achieve the Welsh Government’s net zero ambitions, Wales needs to reduce its agricultural emissions through changes to farming practices and increased carbon sequestration, while also sustaining rural livelihoods.

The Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP) has been given funding by the Welsh Government to provide independent support to the Wales Net Zero 2035 Challenge Group, chaired by former minister Jane Davidson, to help them to access relevant evidence and expertise to inform their work.

The Group’s first challenge area asks ‘How could Wales feed itself in 2035?’ focusing on a food system which is able to achieve net zero as well as the ambitions of the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

WCPP’s evidence pack presents an overview of key data and trends relating to the Welsh food system, as well as a discussion paper which synthesises existing evidence on food systems, agriculture and land use. It was prepared to stimulate discussion amongst the Group and does not attempt to provide any definitive views or recommendations for the Group’s approval.

In the UK Climate Change Committee’s ‘balanced pathway’ scenario for Wales to achieve net zero by 2050, agriculture becomes the largest source of emissions by 2035 as other sectors decarbonise more quickly. In order to reach net zero, land which is currently used for agricultural production will need to be used for carbon sequestration: evidence suggests that a mix of land sharing and land sparing approaches will allow for reductions in emissions while also supporting Welsh farmers.

Reducing agricultural emissions will also require a reduction in livestock numbers, as on their own, other changes to existing farming practices will not go far enough. Therefore, there is a need to find alternative ways to sustain rural livelihoods other than livestock grazing, especially on the 79% of Welsh land less suited for growing crops.

As well as reducing emissions from production, reaching net zero will also require reductions in consumption emissions, through changes in diet and reductions in food and packaging waste. Reducing consumption of meat and dairy products and increasing access to healthy, affordable and locally-sourced food could have a range of benefits: WCPP Research Officer Greg Notman has published a blog exploring these benefits.

The analysis and the conclusions presented in the report, blog and discussion piece are the authors’ own and do not represent the views or positions of the Wales Net Zero 2035 Challenge Group.