British farmers must learn to contend with a world of energy shortages and rising oil prices, a government adviser has warned.
Sir Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, said burgeoning demand for oil – particularly in rapidly developing countries such as China – would revolutionise the global food supply chain.
“This is a new world,” he told delegates at the Soil Association’s annual conference.
“It is a world in which carbon is the new currency.
For many people in the food and farming industry today, this looks shockingly frightening.”
Sir Jonathon is Tony Blair’s environmental adviser and the Prime Minister has described him as “one of the most prominent voices promoting green issues over the past 25 years”.
Many farmers had little understanding of the degree to which their lives would be revolutionised by the need to reduce carbon emissions, said Sir Jonathon.
But the situation was compounded by the failure of politicians to address the problem.
“When talking to farmers I just want to say: ‘Wake up and smell the carbon.
This is what your lives are going to be dominated by.
Start getting to grips with what it means to live in a carbon-constrained world, with oil selling at $100 a barrel’.”
Sir Jonathon said policy-makers should recognise the need for more sustainable energy use as the world’s population rose.
But the Treasury’s recently published vision for the Common Agricultural Policy had failed to address the issue.
“The document is still premised on an inexorable increase in the globalisation of the food economy – a seemingly unstoppable process by which every single consumer and producer is wrapped up in global supply chains whether they like it or not.”
It was possible that this new reality hadn’t yet passed across the desks of DEFRA policy-makers, said Sir Jonathon.
But few analysts believed that oil prices were going to fall back as low as $25, $30 or even $40 a barrel.
“All the agencies responsible showing projections of increasing energy consumption particularly in places like China tell us we are likely to see oil prices gradually rising.
That changes completely what is going to happen to supply chains around the world.”