Farmers must cut emissions or face intervention

A government white paper has called on the UK farming sector to cut emissions by 6%, warning that policy-makers will intervene if progress is “insufficient”.

The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, which sets out how the UK will achieve a 34% cut in emissions by 2020, states that famers must “join with the rest of the UK in reducing its impact on our climate”.

It points out that agriculture currently accounts for 7% of UK greenhouse gas emissions and warns that, “Without new and concerted action, farms will account for over a third of the UK’s total allowable emissions by 2050.”

The white paper calls on farmers to agree on a voluntary action plan by Spring 2010. Suggested actions include “improving fertiliser efficiency, manure management and livestock feeding and breeding”.

The government will review the action taken by the sector in 2012 to decide whether voluntary action will be “sufficient”, or if government intervention will be necessary. A shortlist of intervention options will be drawn up, in consultation with the industry, and published in Spring 2010.

The white paper commits the government to supporting low-carbon farming through research, information distribution, policies, interest-free loans and investment in technologies such as anaerobic digestion.

Anaerobic digestion is expected to play a big role in reducing UK agriculture emissions and the recommendations of the Anaerobic Digestion Task Group, which is made up of a number of industry organisations including the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), were published alongside the new white paper.

Andrew Kuyk, FDF director of Sustainability and Competitiveness, said: “The government must support the practical recommendations made in this report if we are to give a much-needed boost to anaerobic digestion capacity in England.

“Some of the key priorities highlighted in the report include the importance of developing a proportionate, risk-based regulatory framework for anaerobic digestion; establishing cost-effective systems for the separate collection of food waste and promoting greater awareness of the opportunities afforded by this technology among communities.

“We look forward to a positive response from ministers later this year.”

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