‘Farming’s the solution to climate change, not the problem’

Farmers and industry leaders are heading to the Copenhagen environment summit to promote farming as a green industry and rebuff criticisms linking meat-eating with climate change.

As many as 300 farming delegates from all over the world will take part in a Agriculture and Rural Development Day, a fringe meeting, on Saturday (12 December).

A strong contingent is expected from the NFU and Soil Association.

Ian Backhouse, chairman of the NFU’s combinable crops board, said he wanted to attend because he was concerned that recent calls to cut carbon emission by reducing meat consumption had unfairly branded farmers as big polluters.

“Our involvement in any of these conferences is to ensure that we don’t unfairly get lumbered with the blame and secondly, any policies that come out of it are consequently commonsense policies.

“We are one of the biggest possible solutions to the causes because we produce plants and plants take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” he said.

He also planned to promote using anaerobic digesters to cut emissions and create cleaner energy.

But he said he was concerned that farming was not higher up the Copenhagen summit agenda.

“It does not recognise that agriculture could be one of the big solutions to the whole climate change subject,” Mr Backhouse said.

Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, slammed world leaders for once again leaving agriculture off the main Copenhagen climate change agenda.

“Agriculture should be something central, not peripheral to Copenhagen,” said Mr Holden.

He said farmers could lock up carbon by tilling soil less and improving the fertility of the land, for instance, by using organic farming methods.

“We would offset 23% of total farming emissions from agriculture by harnessing the capacity of soil,” he said.

“If all farmers switched to systems based on crop retention to build fertility, that would represent the biggest change in agricultural practices for 60 years,” said Mr Holden.

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