Farming News - Industry responds to IPCC report on land use and climate change

Industry responds to IPCC report on land use and climate change

08 Aug 2019
Frontdesk / Arable / Livestock

NFU responds to IPCC report on land use and climate change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a global report into land use and its impact on the climate.

Some of its recommendations include restoring peatlands by halting drainage schemes, reducing meat consumption to cut methane emissions and reducing food waste.

NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts said:

“The NFU has been clear that our aspiration to become net zero – reducing our greenhouse gas footprint and offsetting emissions – by 2040 does not mean downsizing livestock production. This would only export our production to countries which may not have the same standards of environmental protection.

“Our plan for achieving our net zero goal is focused on making the most of our natural resources. With 65% of UK farmland best suited to growing grass, this means using our grasslands, which are also a huge store of carbon, to produce high quality beef and lamb.

"British farmers are determined to continue reducing methane emissions through a variety of methods, including dietary changes and breeding techniques. Alongside this, we are also looking for ways to continue to improve soil health and increase organic matter within our soils, which is one of our greatest assets."

“With last year’s weather extremes and the recent flooding in Yorkshire, there is no denying that we are already seeing the impacts of climate change and it is encouraging that the report recognises the threat the climate poses on food security. We now need to see government policies that will support the farming industry in delivering on its net zero ambition.”

CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said:

“Climate Change is among the biggest threats to agricultural businesses, and Governments around the world should understand that farmers and landowners are a major part of the solution.  95% of CLA members when polled were incorporating climate change mitigation into their business plans, which shows the determination of the landowning community to support the global effort to protect the environment.

“There is no silver bullet to dealing with climate change.  Farmers are keen and ready to farm in the most sustainable way but the tax, planning and future agriculture policies must allow them to do so. For example, engaging in agroforestry, mixed farming systems, permanent pasture, restoring peatland, new woodland planting and improving productivity.

“One thing is clear.  A global programme of tree planting is necessary, and landowners are up to the task of playing their part. Government should speed up its efforts to create a funding structure that would allow farmers to make appropriate agricultural land available for afforestation.”

Green MEP Molly Scott Cato has said the South West is well placed to respond to the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released today, which calls for radical changes to methods of food production and consumption.

The MEP, who sits on the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, says that farming in the region has huge potential to help tackle the climate crisis. The MEP believes a rapid transition towards organic farming, agro-forestry, ‘rewilding’ and restoring peatlands could ensure that agriculture in the South West becomes an important carbon sink. 

The IPCC offers a comprehensive assessment of the close links between climate change and land use. The report says that the way land is currently managed is ‘catastrophic’ for the climate but points toward the agriculture sector’s huge potential in tackling the climate emergency. The world’s leading climate scientists are calling for a move away from large-scale industrial agriculture, the elimination of food waste, an end to deforestation, a reduction in meat consumption and the restoration of damaged ecosystems.

Molly Scott Cato said:

“Today’s IPCC report acknowledges that if we are to prevent climate breakdown we must adapt land use so that agriculture becomes part of the solution rather than the problem. But we must go further and find ways of recapturing some of the emissions already in the atmosphere. The land has an extraordinary capacity to absorb and hold carbon if farmed in a climate-friendly way, and the South West, with its largely rural economy, can lead the way.   

Patrick Holden, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, said, “We think many of the headlines about this report are not accurate and we instead need a much more nuanced public discussion about which foods, both livestock and plant-based, are part of the solution and which are part of the problem.
It’s all very well for those recommending a switch to eating more plant-based foods, but if those diets include foods like palm oil, genetically modified soy, almond milk or avocados, for example, all of which are from production systems that are causing damage to the environment, they will do nothing to tackle climate change.”

Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey and Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, said: 
“Our future depends on the land: our own health and the health of the land are inextricably intertwined. So today’s special report from the IPCC on climate change and land ought to be a profound wake-up call for somnambulant politicians. It documents the enormous impacts that the combination of human activity and climate change has had on the land in recent decades: water scarcity, desertification, soil erosion, declining yields and wildfire damage.  The list of impacts is long and startling, but the outcome is even more alarming: the real risk of serious and worsening food insecurity in the near to medium term. 
“As our work on the RSA’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission recently revealed, society’s relationship with the land has been profoundly broken in the last 70 years. Driven by poor policy and perverse incentives, the food and farming system has become one of the main drivers of human and ecosystem crisis. The food and agriculture system accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions overall. None of this is inevitable.  Our recommendations for the UK included proposals for a ten-year transition plan for sustainable farming, a comprehensive land-use strategy and a National Agroecology Development Bank to facilitate investment in our most vital natural asset: the land that nourishes and sustains us.”