Farming bodies warn emissions cuts may stall

8th April 2016


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  • Mitigation ,
  • Generation ,
  • Renewable

Author

Robert Cox

Progress on reducing agricultural emissions could be stymied by government cuts, according to the farming sector.

Organisations including the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Agricultural Industries Commission (AIC) and the Country Land and Business Association signed up to a voluntary plan to reduce emissions in 2011. The greenhouse gas action plan (GHGAP) has a target of reducing emissions by three million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (11%) a year by 2020.

Agriculture was responsible for 9% of the UK’s GHGs in 2014, according to the government’s latest statistics, released at the end of March; nitrous oxide and methane are the main contributors. The data shows that emissions from the sector decreased by 16% between 1990 and 2014, but also that they increased by 2% from 2013-14.

The coalition of farming organisations highlighted successes of the plan so far, including the launch of a register of advisers on feed to reduce emissions from livestock, and new greenhouse gas mitigation training as part of certification schemes. The sector estimates that one third of farmers have invested in renewable energy.

However, its progress report highlights potential barriers to future success. A proposal for a hub bringing together consistent information for farmers and their advisors on production efficiencies and GHG mitigation has not been realised due to a lack of secure funding options and government spending cuts which removed support for the key IT system for the pilot hub, the report states.

The sector bodies are also concerned that proposals by the environment department (Defra) to cut back on data collection will hinder progress. Jane Salter, head of environment at the AIC, said that the sector has benefited greatly from the expertise within Defra’s statistics team. ‘The wealth of survey data has been the bedrock on which we’ve built our report. We accept that there are funding cuts but they need to be made cleverly so that core data is not lost, she said.

There is no point having targets if there is then no evidence to demonstrate the success of policies to achieve them, she said.

The Committee on Climate Change has also complained that Defra’s plans to scale back data collection could damage the UK’s ability to meet carbon emission reduction targets.

Future renewable energy technology deployment on farms is in doubt due to government subsidy cuts, the report states. With no indication of the likely level of future feed-in-tariffs, there is likely to be ‘complete paralysis’ in the on-farm anaerobic digestion supply chain once existing orders have been fulfilled, it said.

The report does see potential for farmers to invest in energy efficiency and on-farm renewable energy sources due to longer-term fears of price volatility of fossil fuels, and the fact that some renewable technologies are becoming competitive with fossil fuels without subsidy. It also predicts that the development of a broadening range of financial packages offered to farms to pay for renewables and battery technology will help.

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