Roger Kerr, Chief executive of Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G), calls for stronger targets and a much more coordinated approach to reducing Greenhouse gas emissions following publication by the UK government of its Net Zero Growth Plan and Nature Markets Framework policy papers.
As the UK’s largest certifier of organic land, OF&G is urging the government to listen to the wave of criticism which is being levelled at Downing Street from experienced practitioners and scientists across the country.
We believe the government’s decision to focus so narrowly on carbon and to leave much of the biodiversity incentives to the open market is naïve and dangerous.
Reducing Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must remain a priority of climate mitigation which means carbon offsetting must not be considered, or even be allowed to be considered as a ‘get out of jail free’ card.
To make real headway, carbon farming initiatives must be interwoven with positive biodiversity outcomes and ecosystem protection. While the government has cited a separate initiative for biodiversity net gain, the two issues cannot be viewed in isolation as they are linked inextricably.
When biodiversity indexes are compared, out of 240 countries and territories, the UK is ranked 12th from the bottom, with England seventh from the bottom.
The UK has a Biodiversity index of just 50% which means it has retained only half of its biodiversity. When biodiversity indexes are compared, out of 240 countries and territories, the UK is ranked 12th from the bottom, with England seventh from the bottom. Biodiversity net gain is only a sticking paster, we need to be taking positive and progressive action or this country will continue to lose much of its rich natural diversity and fail future generations who will look back at us in horror.
OF&G has set out other areas that must be addressed in response to Defra’s latest commitment to ‘open up multi-billion-pound opportunities for farmers and landowners in the carbon market.’ These include a transition to a fully systems-based approach since the goal of achieving greater sustainability in farming will not succeed by adopting a series of single practices that conflict with each other under some scenarios. Instead, OF&G is calling for incentives to simultaneously address climate change, the decline of biodiversity, deforestation, water and air pollution.
For decades, organic farmers have been early adopters, undertaking practises that sequester carbon in tandem with supporting nature.
For decades, organic farmers have been early adopters, undertaking practises that sequester carbon in tandem with supporting nature. They cannot now be penalised by a failure to properly recognise their hard work at a time when we need to see a massive shift right across our food systems.
An activity-based approach should be incentivised rather than taking a results-based approach. We agree with António Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, who recently stated that benchmarks and criteria regarding net zero commitments are often ‘dubious or murky’ which ‘feeds a culture of climate misinformation and confusion, and it leaves the door wide open to greenwashing.’ Credible and transparent’ transition plans are indeed required..
Policy emphasis should be on building a suite of management techniques which assures that carbon capture continues regardless of the season or the crop.
Policy emphasis should be on building a suite of management techniques which assures that carbon capture continues regardless of the season or the crop. Otherwise, any gains can easily be reversed by a change of management practices.
Lastly, OF&G is calling for effective safeguards to be put in place, to prevent the risk of the sale of carbon removal certificates leading to yet further increases in land prices.
Accessing land is already an issue for many farmers – especially young people and new entrants to the industry, and we must surely strive for a healthy, resilient, and productive agricultural sector; rather than one that is exposed to abuse by hedge funds and multi-national corporations.
There is much more at stake than these latest government proposals account for, and it is essential the UK transitions to a narrative that strongly links emissions and biodiversity, and really helps farmers to deliver real benefits that will last longer than the lifetime of a single parliament.
Chief executive, Organic Farmers & Growers