Current and potential climate change mitigation effects of Environmental Stewardship

Agri-environment schemes in England can provide payments to land managers to protect and / or enhance the environment. Environmental Stewardship (ES), the agri-environment scheme in England, which was launched in March 2005, has three elements: the Entry Level, Higher Level and Organic Entry Level Schemes. The main scheme objectives are to improve water quality and reduce soil erosion, enhance farmland wildlife, maintain and enhance landscape character, and protect the historic environment. The change in land use and land management that an agreement specifies, may also have an impact on UK greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

This Defra funded research project adopted a Life-Cycle Assessment approach to quantify net GHG emissions for each management option and calculated the Global Warming Potential overall. It quantified the impact on UK GHG emissions (excluding the potential impact of a displacement of production overseas), both on-farm and including indirect emissions, and changes in carbon sequestration. It suggests where management of an option may be modified to minimise emissions further, without a compromise of their primary objective. Options with the greatest potential to reduce emissions include the creation of grass strips on cultivated land or improved grassland. This decrease arose from two mechanisms, a reduction in the source of emissions and an increase in the carbon stored within the land when at equilibrium either as soil organic carbon or biomass. Higher Level Stewardship has an important role in the preservation of existing soil carbon stores and mitigation of CO2 emissions from drained peat habitats such as bogs or fenland.


Dr Doug Warner


University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2017.