The National Farmers' Union will today unveil its vision of how British farming hopes to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
The new report, 'Achieving Net Zero: Farming’s 2040 Goal', sets out three pillars that will help the industry reach its ambitious goal:
- Improving farming’s productive efficiency;
- Improving land management and changing land use to capture more carbon;
- Boosting renewable energy and the wider bio-economy.
The first of these is about reducing emissions, using a wide variety of techniques to enhance productivity and deliver the same output or more from every farm, working smarter to use fewer inputs.
The second is about increasing farming’s ability to capture more carbon though bigger hedgerows, more trees and woodland, enhancing soil organic matter and conserving existing carbon stores in grassland and pasture.
The third theme involves displacing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through bioenergy and bio-based materials like hemp fibre and sheep’s wool.
'A sense of urgency'
NFU president Minette Batters said: “There is no doubt that climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time and rising rapidly on the political agenda both at home and globally.
"Representing British farming, we recognise our unique position as both a source and a store for greenhouse gas emissions and, importantly, how we can build on our work so far to deliver climate-neutral farming in the next 20 years.
We aspire to be producing the most climate-friendly food in the world. The carbon footprint of British red meat is only 40% of the world average.
"And we can go further, whether that is through improving our productivity, using our own land to take up and store carbon, planting hedgerows and trees to capture even more, and boosting our renewable energy output. We know that there is no single answer to the climate change challenge facing us all.
“That is why we must work across a range of internationally recognised inventories and utilise the best available science, working in partnership with concerted support from government, stakeholders and the wider supply chain. This ‘white paper’ provides a strong foundation on which to talk to others about joining us on our journey.
“We mean what we say about delivering against this aspiration and we have a sense of urgency for what is needed to achieve it.
We need to implement pilots of the new Environmental Land Management scheme and productivity scheme to see how these work practically on the ground, as they will play a key part in achieving net-zero.
"A new shared prosperity fund for rural development also needs to be in place and support from the current Industrial Strategy is crucial.
“I am also very clear that we can deliver on our commitment to net-zero while retaining, if not growing, our agricultural capacity. British farmers are proud to produce food to some of the highest standards of animal welfare and environmental protection in the world.
"We must avoid anything that undermines UK food production, and merely exports our greenhouse gas emissions to other parts of the world.”