Minister calls on farmers to reduce emissions

Farm minister Jim Paice has challenged the agricultural industry to honour its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A Greenhouse Gas Action Plan (GHGAP), setting out how the industry will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3m tonnes of CO2 equivalents, was launched by farm leaders on Monday (4 April).

The plan focuses on ways farmers can reach the target by 2020 while saving costs and without compromising production. The government will review progress made by the industry next year.

Mr Paice said the government would support growers and livestock producers to meet the target. “I’d really like to see the industry seizing this opportunity and I look forward to seeing real action in farms across the country,” he said.

“This is the first step on the farming sector’s road to becoming more sustainable and I expect the partner organisations to show clear leadership as industry works to meet this challenge.”

Agriculture contributes approximately 9% of the total UK greenhouse gas emissions. It is the single largest emitter of nitrous oxide – contributing 76% of the UK total – and accounts for 38% of the UK’s methane emissions.

Industry progress towards meeting its target will be reviewed in 2012 as part of a wider government review of how different activities, including government policy, affect agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan aims to make the most of existing industry initiatives. It will report on the progress made by farmers and land managers as they improve their use of energy, nutrients and their own carbon footprint.

Some 16 organisations are backing the plan. They include the NFU, Country Land and Business Association, and the Agricultural Industries Confederation.

NFU vice-president Gwyn Jones said the main focus of our action plan would encourage farmers and growers to become more efficient, producing more with fewer resources and fewer emissions.

“This is good news for farm businesses and good news for the environment,” said Mr Jones. “By optimising our production efficiency, we can actually reduce emissions per unit of output.”

“Our objectives are consistent with the recent UK Foresight Report on the future of food and farming. We strongly believe that ‘sustainable intensification’ will enable us to produce more with a reduced impact on the planet.”

CLA vice-president Henry Robinson said avoiding harmful climate change was in everybody’s interest. He added: “The target the government has set us is achievable, if we can raise awareness and get key information out.”

Mr Paice said the government was helping agriculture reduce emissions by investing £12.6m to improve the science base and launching a pilot scheme offering advice to farmers.

It was also working with supply chains to reduce their emissions and looking at other ways policy can support the industry, for example through Common Agricultural Policy reform.