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Climate Change Committee recognises complex challenge ahead for agriculture


The joint agricultural Climate Change Task Force has agreed with the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that complex challenges lie ahead for the agriculture industry as it increases its efforts to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

The independent CCC, established to advise successive UK governments under the Climate Change Act 2008, delivered its 2nd Progress Report to Parliament yesterday. The report contains a substantial chapter on agriculture, describing the CCC’s analysis of emissions reduction opportunities in our sector and their response to the agricultural industry Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Action Plan presented to Government earlier this year.

According to the CCC, the latest 2008 data shows that UK agricultural emissions have continued their gradual downward trend. However, it is presently hard to distinguish between business as usual and a trajectory of emissions reductions.  In the absence of a better evidence base, indicators of improved farm practice will be needed.  The CCC suggests that emissions reduction above the current 3Mt CO2e target assigned to agriculture in England may be possible if driven by stronger incentives through different policies such as taxes or an emissions cap. It also calls for Devolved Administrations to set targets in line with that currently applicable in England.

In a joint statement the Task Force said: The CCC believes that our industry-led Action Plan is a useful first step and while it has not seen voluntary action succeed in other sectors, our industry has a history of engagement in such initiatives e.g. Voluntary Initiative on pesticides and more recently, The Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE). The industry is united in its commitment to deliver realistic emissions reductions based on scientific evidence. Additional policy drivers cannot overcome the limited state of current knowledge and its practical application to meet the complex challenges of reducing non-CO2 gases in agriculture which are poorly understood and difficult to manage.

Larger savings in farmings GHG will not be achieved without significantly increasing research and development in animal and crop breeding and nutrition so we welcome the CCCs support for developing new technologies for UK agriculture. We would like to see the CCC addressing the barriers to uptake of anaerobic digestion in agriculture that still exist. Such barriers run the risk of thwarting the industry meeting its 3Mt target.

We are pleased that the Committee has recognised the complex trade-offs with food security and other services delivered by the agricultural sector but we are concerned about its view of the realistic abatement potential. The CCC also appears to understand our perspective that longer-term progress (in the 4th Carbon Budget period onwards, beyond 2022) will require international agreement at EU level or worldwide, in order to avoid leakage through export of consumption-related emissions.

British farmers and growers take their environmental responsibilities seriously and real improvements are already being made by the industry to reduce its impact on the environment. Practical measures already in place include the Environmental Plan for Dairy Farming, the Dairy Roadmap and the Eblex Beef & Sheep Roadmap.

  1. The agricultural Climate Change Task force comprises of the NFU, CLA, AIC and AHDB and its sectors (BPEX, Dairy Co, EBLEX, HDC, HGCA, Potato Council)
  2. The GHG Action Plan, presented to Government in February 2010, represents a firm statement of intent that the agriculture industry will play its part in ensuring progress towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as required by the Climate Change Act (2008).

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