Cut emissions warning – or face Government intervention

THE farming industry must commit to a voluntary scheme to reduce carbon emissions by 6 per cent by 2020 or face Government intervention, Defra has warned.

The Low Carbon Transition Plan, reported in Farmers Guardian last week, is the latest move towards achieving the Government's targets of reducing carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050.

The plan has allocated sepa-rate climate change targets to key Government departments, including Defra.

Better management

Already, Defra has drawn up a plan and one crucial element will be to encourage English farmers to take action themselves through more efficient use of fertiliser, and better management of livestock and manure.

Because most of the actions to reduce emissions also save money or increase productivity, Defra expects to see a proactive response from the sector.

However, if Defra deems insufficient progress has been made on the voluntary basis by 2012, the Government may intervene.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Many farmers are already making changes to cut their emissions – and many of those changes also help to save money or increase productivity.

But with around 7 per cent of the UK's emissions coming from farming, and changes in land use, we need to find more ways to reduce emissions while producing food sustainably and adapting to changes in the climate to ensure British agriculture is as efficient, competitive and climate-friendly as possible.”

Other measures in the White Paper include encouraging private funding for woodland creation and supporting anaerobic digestion.

Dr Jonathan Scurlock, NFU renewable energy adviser, welcomed the strategy. “We look forward to working up a voluntary industry plan towards the challenging but realistic greenhouse gas reduction targets set out in the Low Carbon Transition Plan, and working with the Carbon Trust and other partners to support energy efficient and low carbon farming,” he said.

Ambitious targets

But Soil Association policy director, Peter Melchett, warned the industry would have to cut emissions by more than 6 per cent if the Government was to achieve the ambitious targets set for 2050.

He said: “The emission reductions planned for farming are incredibly modest, reflecting the Government's complete lack of a long-term strategy for climate- friendly farming.

“The plan to cut farming emissions by a tiny 6 per cent by 2020 means the farming industry risks having to make massive cuts of over 70 per cent between 2020 and 2050.”

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