Farmers turn to carbon-saving techniques as report calls for lower meat consumption and soil protection
PUBLISHED: 13:07 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:09 08 August 2019
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East Anglian farmers are "acutely aware" of the climate change challenge and committed to tackling it, a farmers' leader said as a new report warned of the dire effects land use was having on temperature rises.
The United Nations (UN) study - from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - underlined previous concerns about the need to change practices - and curb meat diets - to combat the problem.
The treatment of our soils was having a major effect on global warming, it warned, with activities such as growing crops, raising livestock and cutting down forests accounting for almost a quarter (23%) of greenhouse gases between 2006 and 2017.
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But National Farmers' Union (NFU) East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington said the region's farmers were already planting more trees and hedgerows, and showing their commitment to solving the problem.
Awareness of the importance of soil health investment was at an all-time high, and uptake of techniques to hold in carbon in the soil, such as cover cropping and minimum tillage on farms was on the increase in Suffolk and Essex, she pointed out.
"We're acutely aware of the climate change challenge in East Anglia, the driest region of the UK but also a region where people, property and productive farmland are at risk if sea levels rise.
"It's a challenge that farmers across East Anglia are committed to tackling. The NFU wants UK agriculture to become net zero by 2040, which means reducing our greenhouse gas footprint and offsetting emissions.
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"It also involves making the most of our natural resources. With 65% of UK farmland best suited to growing grass, this means using our grasslands, which are also a huge store of carbon, to produce high quality beef and lamb.
She added: "Farmers are always looking to improve and we want to maximise our ability to produce climate-friendly, healthy food for the nation. We also require government policies that will support the farming industry in delivering on its net zero ambition."
Country Land and Business Association (CLA) East regional surveyor Claire Wright said most of their members, when polled, indicated they were incorporating climate change mitigation into their business plans, but there was no silver bullet.
"Climate Change is among the biggest threats to agricultural businesses, and governments around the world should understand that farmers and landowners are a major part of the solution," she said.
"Farmers in our region are keen and ready to farm in the most sustainable way but the tax, planning and future agriculture policies must allow them to do so. For example, engaging in agroforestry, mixed farming systems, permanent pasture, restoring peatland, new woodland planting and improving productivity.
"One thing is clear. A global programme of tree planting is necessary, and landowners are up to the task of playing their part. Government should speed up its efforts to create a funding structure that would allow farmers to make appropriate agricultural land available for afforestation."
The UN report called for sustainable farming methods, changing diets to eat less meat, replanting of forests and protection of habits to cut climate emissions.