Profit essential if agriculture is to help address climate change

Farmers need a profitable agriculture before they can be expected to assist in the UK’s attempts to tackle the effects of climate change, warned David Fursdon, president of the Country Land and Business Association.

In a Royal Show seminar on Sunday (2 July) on the potential effect of climate change on the UK’s agricultural systems, Mr Fursdon called on government to devise the necessary framework to allow agriculture to help in tackling the phenomenon.

“But, before serious efforts can be made, we need a profitable industry; otherwise it will be a struggle at best and a total failure at worst,” said Mr Fursdon.

He emphasised to Ian Pearson, the junior DEFRA minister attending, that agriculture, although part of the problem, shouldn’t be expected to shoulder more than its fair share of responsibility in helping tackle climate change.

Although unable to clarify how exactly farmers might help, Mr Pearson stressed that “farmers are in the frontline in the battle against climate change”.

Explaining that agriculture was the single biggest emitter of two of the most dangerous greenhouse gases – nitrous oxide and methane – he said DEFRA was funding research investigating ways in which methane pollution could be reduced.

But it was not all bad news. While the world’s climate would inevitably change over the coming decades, the UK was likely to fare better than other countries, especially north African nations and south European states.

Philip Beauvais of the Met Office warned that a warmer climate would increase health risks due to the spread of pests that currently inhabit warmer climes.

Hotter summers would also increase the need for sun shelters in fields for livestock, while wetter winters would increase the risk of poaching and soil erosion.