The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) has called on the government to create a joined-up approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on-farm after the UK signed a Global Methane Emissions pledge at COP26 in Glasgow yesterday (November 2).

More than 100 countries have pledged to cut emissions of methane. This commits signatories to reduce their overall emissions by 30% by 2030, compared with 2020 levels.

The new initiative emphasises making cuts by tackling methane from livestock farming and leaks from oil and gas wells and other fossil fuel infrastructure, for example.

However, the RABDF believes it is unacceptable to focus on just one greenhouse gas, such as methane, with a joined-up agriculture policy required to tackle farm emissions.

Peter Alvis, RABDF chairman, said: “It is difficult for agriculture to focus on a single gas because of the complex nature of livestock farming and the range of systems. We need to look at it holistically and have a policy that can tackle emissions collectively.

Whilst we have the Clean Air Strategy and the Environment Land Management [ELM] scheme coming down the line, this is not supplying farmers with the tools they need to reduce emissions.

“We need [from the government] a policy that is driven by up-to-date and accurate data.

"This will allow farmers to evaluate the best options for their systems, ensuring they can produce high-quality British food with lower emissions.”

Farming should not be the scapegoat

The RABDF also stresses the importance that farming should not be seen as the scapegoat for methane emissions, nor should food production be exported to countries with lower animal or environmental standards than we have in the UK.

We must remember dairy farming is responsible for less than 2% of the UK’s total emissions and of those emissions, 46% comes from their digestion, a perfectly natural process of ruminants.

"Livestock farming is often blamed for emissions, when in fact it is part of the solution when it comes to emissions as well as helping to feed the growing global population.”