Agriculture could hold the key to tackling the climate emergency and meeting the Government’s ‘net zero’ carbon emissions goals but political uncertainty is holding the industry back, the head of an environment-focused industry body says.
Martin Lines, chairman of the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN), said farmers had received “plenty of warm words” from the Government but no long-term funding guarantees for projects to help them capture carbon and reverse habitat loss.
The NFFN supports the Government’s mooted £3 billion “public money for public goods policy” that would see farmers rewarded for projects such as carbon capture and flood mitigation, but says more than half of its members do not trust the Government to deliver on the idea.
And Mr Lines said political uncertainty - particularly the future of Brexit and the likelihood of a General Election in the near future - was also making farmers hesitate.
“We get many warm words from the Government but we know this Government might not be in place for the duration set out in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act - we need long term funding guarantees,” he said.
Boris Johnson told European Council President Donald Tusk yesterday that there should be no Brexit delay and that it is in the EU and UK’s interests that Britain leaves the bloc on October 31.
But after the Prime Minister’s plans to fast-track his deal through the Commons by the end of the month hit the buffers, EU leaders will soon decide whether to grant Britain a further extension, and for how long, in order to allow the UK to leave with a deal, following the request for a delay.
Opposition parties have signalled they will back a General Election this autumn if the EU grants a delay until next year.
On climate change, the NFFN thinks the quickest way to mobilise the rest of the industry is a clear system of payments for helping implement the Government’s environmental policies.
Founded two years ago, it has over 1,000 members and is growing all the time as more farmers look for cost-effective ways to combat issues such as declining soil quality and erosion.
But it is still tiny when compared to the rest of UK agriculture, which is comprised of an estimated 220,000 holdings and accounts for 70 per cent of all land.
Mr Lines said: “When it comes to tackling the climate emergency, farmers on the ground can react the quickest. We are calling for additional support and more money to direct towards those that can deliver the climate change mitigation opportunities.”
Farms nationwide are adopting innovative methods to reverse the steep decline in wildlife native to the UK and Ireland since the 1970s.
Neil Heseltine of Hilltop Farm in Malham, North Yorkshire, has created hay meadows, which support a rich mixture of flowers and grasses and provide valuable nesting habitat for birds.