Decarbonising the farming sector is key to realising our environmental commitments
Earlier this week Peers were briefed on the importance of decarbonising agriculture if we are to achieve our net zero and environmental commitments.
Current farming practices are still largely reliant on fossil fuels and have been linked to biodiversity loss and degradation of our natural environment. A shift to sustainable agriculture will be key to a healthy and secure food system and a restored natural environment, as well as bringing economic benefits to vast areas of our economy that have processes highly dependent on natural capital.
The Government’s Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMs) is intended to replace the payment scheme under the Common Agricultural Policy to reward farmers for environmental land management. It has been presented as a key opportunity for the UK to move to a post-EU farming framework that supports environmental recovery, drives innovation by unleashing new markets for ecosystem services and biodiversity, and creates a resilient and secure food and water system long-term.
Peers were briefed on the progress made on the roll out of ELMs so far, and how well these new schemes might deliver on the Government's environmental and climate objectives. Key points included:
There is a huge amount to do to reach our environmental goals and despite the opportunity to secure a win-win for farming and nature recovery, more ambitious targets, and major reforms, are required to halt and reverse a 200-year decline in biodiversity loss.
There are concerns that ELMs isn’t ambitious enough if the sector is to play a big role in meeting climate commitments and move rapidly from a sector that is a key emitter to one that is a carbon sink - to put the ‘net’ in net zero.
The sector needs more investment but also good regulation and enforcement, and a closer relationship between farmers and the Environment Agency is needed to improve understanding around compliance.
There are concerns that scrapping Local Nature Recovery Schemes will miss an important opportunity to develop more ambitious and transformative nature recovery plans.
Clearer guidance, a more joined-up approach and better dialogue with the sector is needed from Government. Stakeholders have called for more clarity on the opportunities and rewards presented by the new scheme, what good practice looks like and what support is available to develop plans that will secure long-term stewardship of the land.