The National Farmers Union (NFU) has called for the adoption of the Global Warming Measurement (GWP) metric for the calculating of greenhouse has (GHG) emissions.

The union said the metric shows methane’s impacts on the Earth’s global temperature, which has “been an important topic for both the NFU’s livestock and dairy boards”.

The NFU said: “Farming is in a unique position to provide some of the solutions to reduce emissions, lower global temperature as well as producing nutritious products to feed our growing population,

“We need to make sure that GHG emissions are calculated in as accurate a way as possible to help producers to understand and reduce emissions as much as possible.”

GWP100 is currently the accepted metric for measuring GHG, but the NFU said it has been acknowledged to not be as accurate when measuring the temperature response of short-lived emissions – like methane.

The alternative GWP metric has been developed by climate change scientists at the University of Oxford in New Zealand.

The NFU said GWP provides a measure of the behaviour of methane in the atmosphere and its net contribution to global warming to a greater degree of accuracy.

Unlike GWP100, GWP accounts for the removal of short-lived gases from the atmosphere, the union said.

Climate change

Following a roundtable discussion with the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) on GWP in November, the NFU concluded that the metric provides a more accurate representation of the current contribution of UK ruminant agriculture to climate change.

The union is now calling for:

  • A unified approach to dual accounting with government and industry reporting on emissions from agriculture at the national scale using GWP100 and GWP;
  • Solutions for incorporating GWP* into on-farm GHG calculators so individual producers are not disadvantaged for expanding when national herd/flock emissions remain unchanged or are decreasing due to uptake of new tools and technology;
  • Consistent and simple messaging to consumers on the temperature impacts from methane and the biogenic carbon cycle, including finding a more suitable way for the carbon footprint of a food product to be measured;
  • The impact of genetics and selective breeding on reducing methane emissions to be measured with GWP100 and GWP;
  • A joined up approach to GHGs across government departments, e.g. when looking at air quality under Clean Air Strategy and GHG emissions reductions vs the future of ELMs.

NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said farmers are committed to tackling climate change but need support.

“Urgent action is needed now to improve productivity, conserve the carbon already in our pastures and grasslands, and store more carbon for the good of society.

“Government support is needed in order for farmers to access the capital investment they need to implement interventions to reduce methane and other greenhouse gases.

“The NFU will continue to engage with Defra on how methane reductions are recorded, incentivised and valued both by the public and private markets,” he said.