Monday 26 February, 2024

From the editor: Good intentions, but road to net zero is not all tree-lined

Tree are often seen as the miracle cure to the climate emergency and it looks as though the Welsh Government has fallen into that trap.

clock • 2 min read
From the editor: Good intentions, but road to net zero is not all tree-lined

By stipulating that to qualify for the Sustainable Farming Scheme farmers must set aside 10 per cent of their land for tree planting in addition to the 10 per cent they must designate to habitat cover, with no idea of what they will be paid for either, many feel they are unable to engage.

And as our p1 story shows, there are a number of practical reasons why the scheme's design will alienate a large proportion of farmers, with the consequences for food production intensely debated at this week's Royal Welsh Show.

While headlines in the national media label it as a ‘boycott', they may be missing the point.

The Welsh Government is bound by its various climate change mitigation targets and pledge to create 43,000 hectares of new woodland by 2030 and without the farming industry behind it, with all players invested in the same goal, there is no way it can achieve them.

It begs the question that with more than 12 months to amend the scheme (the same conversations on trees were had on the Builth showground last year) why has no attempt been made to meet in the middle, or at least concede that while some farms will be able to achieve the target, others, will fall way short?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to net zero and to focus on tree planting is misinformed.

Yes, the right tree in the right place does carry strong environmental and climate mitigation benefits, but so do the thousands of kilometres of hedgerows farmers have planted across Wales, the historic woodland which they continue to maintain, not to mention the carbon that is stored in crops, the country's plentiful grass and, which exciting new research shows, sheep fleeces too. 

Welsh Government won heart with the formulation and unanimous backing of its Wales Agriculture Bill but now risks estranging farmers and the public at a critical moment.

Wales' fixation on trees is unlikely to go away, but neither is its agriculture, and the sooner the Senedd realises it must balance the needs of the environment with food production, the sooner it can carve out the best pathway for its people and businesses. 

And finally: Don't forget to show your favourite auction mart some appreciation in our Mart's The Heart Awards. Full details and entry form on P86/87.

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