Sustainable land management: managing land better for environmental benefits

England is at a historical crossroad for the governance of land and the natural environment. Actions for addressing and adapting to climate change, achieving food security and tackling the biodiversity crisis are all embedded in and depend on how land is managed. Existing Government policy and targets have so far failed to address many of these complexities of land, farming and the natural environment.

Sustainable land management: managing land better for environmental benefits
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    Smart Cities

    "Smart cities" describes places that incorporate a range of technologies (especially those that collect and use data) to address economic, social, and environmental challenges. Projects usually take place in urban areas, but are also deployed in rural settings. This POSTnote looks at smart city innovation in the UK and the technologies involved. It considers the factors driving the adoption of smart city technologies, and the potential benefits, barriers and risks associated with their implementation.

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    Energy sector digitalisation

    The incorporation of digital technologies in the energy sector can support progress towards key UK objectives such as achieving Net Zero emissions targets. It can also transform current methods of energy generation, transmission, regulation, and trading. This POSTnote presents an overview of key digital technologies and their main applications in the energy sector. It provides an overview of the potential benefits to using these technologies, and recent developments in this area. It describes the role of data in underpinning digital technologies in the sector, and some of the issues raised by its use. It also discusses broader challenges associated with energy sector digitalisation and measures that could help address them, including issues related to technology, regulation, and impact on consumers.

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    Local nature recovery strategies

    The UK Government is introducing Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) from April 2022 to map where local habitat improvement and restoration could address national-scale environmental objectives. This POSTnote summarises the LNRS approach, including mapping ecological networks, the opportunities for LNRSs to deliver wider benefits to nature and people, and the likely challenges associated with the strategies and their delivery.

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    Blue carbon

    Marine ecosystems around the UK can both increase and decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Carbon loss and gain globally by these ecosystems has the potential to influence climate change. This POSTnote summarises the marine ecosystems in the UK that contribute to these processes, their current and potential future extent, and pressures on them.

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    Environmental housing standards

    Buildings have varied impacts on the environment, arising from energy, water and land use as well as the release of pollutants. Residential buildings also affect occupants’ health and wellbeing through their design and placement within the wider environment. This POSTnote summarises the factors affecting a building’s environmental performance, the existing governance framework and the potential opportunities for delivering wider social benefits through relevant standards.

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    Coastal management

    The UK coastline is shaped by interactions between complex social, ecological, and physical processes. Increasing coastal flood and erosion risk is a major climate adaptation challenge. This POSTnote examines coastal management in England, associated issues and how an adaptive approach can better prepare the country for uncertain future sea level rise under climate change.

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    Regulating product sustainability

    Products can be designed to maximise life cycle energy- and resource-efficiency, from raw material extraction to end-of-life treatment. This POSTnote outlines key aspects of, and consumer attitudes towards, sustainable products. It considers challenges associated with their design, production, regulation and supporting business models as part of a circular economy. ‘End-of-life’ treatment and value recovery, through reuse, recycling and other methods, are discussed.

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    Low-carbon hydrogen supply

    Hydrogen could play a significant role in tackling climate change. Using it does not produce carbon dioxide, so it could replace fossil fuels in a range of applications. It may also provide valuable energy storage. However, almost all hydrogen production currently results in greenhouse gas emissions. Methods of producing it that do not emit greenhouse gases would need to increase for it to contribute to climate change mitigation. Governments and industry in the UK and abroad are aiming to increase low-carbon hydrogen supply. The UK Government will publish a Hydrogen Strategy in 2021.

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    Effective biodiversity indicators

    The UK is committed to targets under international biodiversity agreements to value, conserve and restore the variety of life on earth (biodiversity). Progress towards targets is tracked using indicators, which are designed to summarise complex monitoring data. This POSTnote reviews indicator use and development in the context of the post-2020 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Global Biodiversity Framework.

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