Can farming achieve its ambitious 2040 net zero emissions target?

Great tit chicks nesting in a tractor awaiting food. Farming has set itself an ambitious zero emissi

Great tit chicks nesting in a tractor awaiting food. Farming has set itself an ambitious zero emissions target Picture: LAUREN STEEL - Credit: citizenside.com

Bold plans to deliver climate neutral agriculture by 2040 have been welcomed by the National Farmers’ Union’s (NFU) Suffolk branch chairman, who described global warming as “the biggest challenge of our time”.

Glenn Buckingham, chair of the Suffolk branch of the NFU Picture: GREGG BROWN

Glenn Buckingham, chair of the Suffolk branch of the NFU Picture: GREGG BROWN

Within the next 20 years, the NFU wants to reduce UK farming's contribution to climate change from 10% of our emissions to zero through a combination of measures including more trees and hedgerows, efficiency improvements and renewable energy schemes, putting the industry 10 years ahead of government's overall 2050 target, announced in June 2019.

Glenn Buckingham, who farms at Helmingham, near Debenham, described the NFU target as "very ambitious".

The NFU's report, Achieving Net Zero: Farming's 2040 Goal, shows that while agriculture accounts for 10% of emissions, homes emit 15%, business 17%, energy supply 24% and transport 27%.

MORE - Will farmers have enough water to irrigate crops as aquifers fall to historic lows?"The NFU is very focused on agriculture's remit in this task and to present the issues in a fair but challenging way. It is very easy to look at other sectors and not look at your own and the responsibility we have," said Mr Buckingham.

The NFU wants the industry to be carbon neutral by 2040 Picture: ANDREW MUTIMER

The NFU wants the industry to be carbon neutral by 2040 Picture: ANDREW MUTIMER - Credit: citizenside.com

"We will be looking for all the science and technology to aid us, better utilisation of all resources needs help, from artificial inputs to soil management and water - they are all part of the answer."


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Mr Buckingham - a keen supporter of climate change targets - said the challenge could be the biggest of all time "especially when very few people understand their own carbon footprint and how the planet is being taxed by their actions".

"Going forward we must remember all types of human activity have carbon emissions attached to them, so to meet net zero targets, all parts of life will be affected," he said, adding that "significant changes" would be needed to ensure success.

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The NFU is adopting a three-pronged approach to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

It wants farmers to "work smarter" to improve productivity using fewer inputs and plant more woods and hedgerows. It also wants to displace greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through bioenergy and bio-based materials like hemp fibre and sheep's wool.

NFU president Minette Batters said there was no single answer to the climate change challenge but farmers had a "sense of urgency" for what is needed.

The NFU will be holding zero emissions workshops this winter across the UK.

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