The CLA VIEW

06 November 2020

Later this month the CLA will be showcasing how farming and rural businesses are tackling climate change – one of the greatest challenges facing the world.

The UK has become the first major economy to put a climate change target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 into legislation. Farmers and landowners can contribute towards the net zero goal through maintenance of existing carbon stores in soils; enhancement of carbon storage and sequestration through woodland creation and improved management of established woodland; restoration of wetlands and peatlands; and conversion of land to bioenergy crops. High quality food production must remain a priority but measures that enhance and protect the environment can go hand in hand. 

Farmers and landowners can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by adopting low-carbon farming practices and techniques, and provide land for renewable energy such as solar and wind, and, in the future, options to capture and store carbon through new technologies. 

With transport use, electricity demand and industrial activity dropping dramatically during the Covid-19 pandemic, so too have global greenhouse gases (GHGs). Some estimates suggest that emissions dropped by 8.8% in the first half of this year, the biggest ever annual fall in emissions, larger than the global financial crisis, WWII and the energy crisis in the 80s put together. And all of this is ahead of us entering a second national lockdown.

However, the drop is not nearly enough to make a difference to long-term temperature rise. To put it into context, in the Paris Agreement the world committed to keeping global warming to 1.5C, a target that requires global emissions to fall by 7.6% every year this decade. It is quite sobering that it took a near-global lockdown to meet that goal for 2020.  

So how does agriculture fit in? While there have been some challenges to the food supply chain, labour and farm practices, Covid-19 has also brought into stark relief just how important food production and domestic food security is. 

As we transition to a low-emissions economy, the agriculture industry is in a good position to demonstrate how businesses can thrive, reduce emissions, promote environmental outcomes and, importantly, produce high quality food. There has been a huge amount of work already going into practices that reduce GHG emissions, alongside a move towards land management schemes that prioritise both food and environmental outcomes. We must continue this momentum.

Later this month East Anglia will be a focal point for a free national webinar hosted by the CLA that will explore what farmers and landowners can do to be part of the solution in tackling climate change.

The online event will be live from Holkham in Norfolk and will form part of the CLA Rural Powerhouse Week (RPW) which aims to demonstrate the strength and versatility of the rural economy. On 25 November – the third day of the RPW – the subject of climate change and the road to net zero will be at the forefront of discussions.

Holkham is a fascinating example of how climate change and the rural economy intersect. This webinar will investigate where the estate is in its sustainability journey and what lessons land managers can learn and apply to their own holdings. 

The team at Holkham have incorporated climate change considerations into their business planning, farming enterprises, conservation and rural tourism operations; creating a sustainability strategy that touches all parts of the estate.

We are looking forward to hosting this event and hope to share a wealth of good practice between farmers and landowners in how we can all play a part in tackling this global issue.

The CLA webinar at Holkham will take place at 2pm on Wednesday 25 November. To book a place click here.