Farmers and their farm businesses must be considered part of the solution when it comes to tackling climate change, industry leaders have said.
The comments from the UK’s farming unions were made as the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) published its UK ‘net zero’ target report.
UFU president, Ivor Ferguson said, “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a huge challenge for NI agriculture but we are up for it. Productive and efficient agriculture needs to be recognised as part of the solution.”
The UFU said it was crucial that in its bid to tackle climate change the UK does not export food production, and as a result emissions, to countries with lower environmental standards or ambition to tackle this important issue. “Hindering domestic food production is not the way to address climate change. Grassland, farmland hedges and trees are also crucial for carbon sequestration,” said Ferguson.
The UFU has been part of Northern Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Industry Partnership since its inception almost 10 years ago and has been working to deliver the targets set out in the strategy. “We continue to be an integral member of this industry partnership which was set up to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from our sector. Farmers are committed to tackling greenhouse gas emissions through improving production efficiencies and encouraging carbon capture,” he said.
Producing more renewable energy has been identified as another way to tackle climate change, however, farmers in Northern Ireland are wary following the RHI fiasco. “The incompetence of civil servants and government have left many legitimate users paying the price. The RHI scandal has been a major blow for the industry and set us back when it comes to renewables,” said the UFU president.
The NFU has reiterated that improvements in productivity, carbon capture and renewable energy production are the most effective ways to reach agricultural net zero targets, as part of its ambition to reach net zero by 2040.
Responding to recommendations by the Committee on Climate Change, NFU Deputy President Guy Smith said: “The NFU is working towards an ambitious goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the whole of agriculture in England and Wales by 2040, as a contribution to the CCC’s proposed 2050 target. Our organisations are aligned: acting to tackle damaging climate change is vital.
“However, we will not halt climate change by curbing British production and exporting it to countries which may not have the same environmental conscience, or ambition to reduce their climate impact. Rather, we must farm smarter, focussing on improving productivity, encouraging carbon capture and boosting our production of renewable energy.
“British farmers have an important role to play in tackling climate change and our members are committed to this challenge, alongside fulfilling their responsibility to the public in providing high quality, sustainable and affordable food.”