Countryside COP Communique 2021
The first ever Countryside COP was convened to showcase and inspire net zero activity in rural communities in response to climate change. Scheduled just a few weeks ahead of COP26 in October 2021, this series of online events highlighted the need for a just transition to net zero and a resilient society which is both economically and socially fair, leaving no one behind. Organisations from international farmers’ bodies to universities came together to discuss a wide range of topics - from renewables to a just transition to greenhouse gas accounting. This Communique is a summary of the recommendations resulting from each workshop, highlighting where support and further insight is needed in order to progress.
NOMAD: Mobile Digestate Management – Supporting the Future of Sustainable Farming
NOMAD and H2020 Project
- Aggregation of Anaerobic Digestion operators to lobby for participation in carbon trading schemes - we need a level playing field to participate.
- Recognising Anaerobic Digestion as an approach for decarbonising agriculture beyond energy, and incentivising carbon savings above and beyond heat and power e.g.: nutrient recovery from digestate; volatile carbon capture from organic waste (preventing otherwise uncontrolled emissions); returning recalcitrant carbon back to land; recovery of water.
- Thinking ahead to develop a strategy for when FiTs/RHI incentives come to an end to avoid potential closure of anaerobic digestion plants.
- Harmonising an LCA approach for anaerobic digestion to enable plants to readily report data.
- The need for better and engagement with farmers and users of digestate.
Uniting rural communities to tackle climate change
Rural Services Network
- Rural areas must be included in policy solutions for decarbonisation, an approach focussed solely on urban alone would fail.
- There are particular characteristics of rural areas which can make decarbonisation challenging: distances required to travel to access services, employment and education; transport options; state of Rural Housing Stock; fuel Poverty gap is large in rural areas.
- Opportunities for rural areas in relation to the green economy and diversification of land use, changes in the way we live with less travel, and focus on local food
- Revitalising Rural Campaign sets out asks of Government in relation to Decarbonising Rural Communities and Economies
Ensuring a just transition: balancing farming and forestry
British Agriculture Bureau
- A framework of methods that provide long-term financial support to farmers that delivers a regular income to be derived from on farm, managed woodland that supports biodiversity, amenity, and public well-being benefits.
- A decision-making framework that considers factors such as the tree species, appropriate sourcing to match the location and the long-term objectives - the “right tree in the right place.’’ This will ensure that the long-term economic, environmental, social and cultural impacts of land use change decisions can be properly assessed.
- Sufficient funding of schemes that are properly resourced and simple to apply for to fairly reward farmers to increase tree and hedgerow cover on farms, and investment in necessary infrastructure to develop the forestry sector.
Cut cost, cut carbon: Why installing renewable energy on your farm makes good business sense
- Installing renewable energy solutions for onsite consumption is an attractive option for many farmers – especially as energy costs continue to rise.
- However, there are still a number of barriers preventing some farmers from taking action, including not knowing which technology is right for them, not knowing which installers to trust and not being able to secure finance.
- NFU Energy’s new Renewable Energy Solutions service can help farmers overcome these barriers. It provides one-stop-shop access to leading installers, finance and insurance.
GHG in arable and horticultural crops
AHDB, CHAP, NFU
- UK Cropping Review of baseline GHG emissions (out in Jan 2022) covers the full range of arable, vegetable and fruit crops, collating best of existing knowledge
- Biggest contributors to crop emissions are fertiliser manufacture and use (direct and indirect net soil N2O)
- A portfolio of small measures to reduce emissions adds up - N management may be among the most significant of these (see above), and output per unit N applied is a fair proxy indicator of GHG footprint
- It's hard to attribute on-farm C storage when comparing a tonne of product, but can allocate this to an overall farm carbon balance, which may be a more important reporting basis in future
- Measurement can bring confidence in changing farm practice - pick one carbon calculator that works and stick with it
COP Cefn Gwlad – farming’s net zero journey
- Through climate-friendly food production, the trees, hedges, grassland and soils that store carbon on Welsh farms together with on-farm energy generation, agriculture in Wales plays a key role in tackling climate change and is uniquely placed to be the solution.
- Welsh farming is a world leader in sustainable food production. The Welsh farming industry is committed to working together to ensure our sector will combat climate change whilst continuing to make a positive contribution to global food security.
- Action on climate change should be progressed in a way that is sustainable and fair, that is globally responsible and that safeguards our rural communities, culture and language.
Tenant Farmer Discussion Evening
- The need for a better balance between food and the environment and to at least maintain our level of self-sufficiency in food production in the UK. Revisit the MAFF ‘White Paper’ produced in the early 1970’s entitled ‘Food from our own resources’.
- Potential administrative burden of new ELMS – amount and complexities – for farmers. If it is too complex farmers need to pay advisors and agents, so a lot of funding will actually go to those professionals.
- Limited budgets means funding is spread too thin. Are there too many schemes and standards proposed? Who is going to get the funding – landowner or tenant/occupier – e.g. carbon and environmental credits/trading.
- Lack of trust and difficult to communicate with RPA and Defra
GHG Accounting in the livestock sector
- Funding should be available for people to be able to do a thorough carbon audit on farm. This should include training and a wider understanding of carbon audits so they can continue to do them each year. A consultation or review of improvements should also be included to help people understand changes they can make on farm to help them towards their net zero journey.
- Any future farming investment and grant schemes should consider options for livestock farmers to help reduce their emissions. For example innovation into technologies such as methane inhibiting feed or cattle face masks could be funded as smaller scale options. Larger opportunities such as slurry stores or advice on mob/cell grazing could also be considered.
- Beef and Sheep farmers and industry need advice and guidance in the form of a road map, to help direct those with and without carbon footprints in their net zero journey.
- Data collected by these carbon calculators or through other methods in industry should be used to feed in to the annual inventory so that reductions made by the livestock industry are well recorded.
- Need for opportunities for young farmers – succession planning and mentoring opportunities. Outgoing farmers with capital, working with young farmers with energy and new ideas is a sound proposal.
- Greater understanding and recognition of carbon sequestration in grassland required
Agri-supply industry – on the case to net zero
- Sustainable balance for raw material sourcing of products for UK farms - with evidence.
- Lowest possible low carbon inputs to farm, with optimal safe recovery/recycling of nutrient resources.
- Our advisers to support farmers to target their own production KPIs and track % change.
- Expanding the skill set of our farm advisers to offer integrated farm and sustainable land management solutions – linking funds, with issues, with advice.
Sugar beet and carbon: what we need to know
- There is a lack of data on the carbon footprint of sugar beet and impact of different management practices on emissions (fertiliser placement, harvest conditions, returning tops to the soil).
- The BBRO and University of Lincoln are planning to work together to address this research gap via applying for DEFRA funding. They will focus particularly upon carbon flux towers in different fields, and the impact of different soil types.
Delivering net zero food
University of Lincoln
- A wider adoption of electric vehicles and intelligent robots for more precise and targeted treatments and automated harvesting
- Adopt technologies which prevent or reduce the need for pesticides
- Understand the whole supply chain and what impact different operations have on the environment
Farmer perspectives on achieving Net Zero
NFU North East
- Agriculture cannot achieve net zero and environmental ambitions alone, we need support and buy in from all stakeholders, including supply chains and all levels of government that support the environment and food production.
- Government policy must be appropriate and supportive of agriculture.
- Energy crops will play an important role in achieving net zero ambitions, but currently information is lacking on what crops are best suited to different areas. Farmers need more support to help them decide where these crops can be planted and understand the wider benefits.
- Government and stakeholders must recognise the importance of pastures for carbon sequestration – which are better sequesters than trees.
- Stakeholders and government must recognise the important role that livestock play in farming systems in the North East. They are integral to circular farming systems and produce high value protein. Emissions should be measured using GWP* rather than GWP100.
Tomorrow’s farmers rising to today’s climate challenge
NFYFC and YOUNGO
- There is a need for incentives, tools, and skills for current farmers and to encourage people into agriculture. Funding needs to be improved and education must be accessible to people of all ages.
- World leaders, policymakers and the public should be visiting farms. Not only to understand what life is like for farmers and what farming involves, but also to increase respect for farmers and show the potential of agriculture to become net zero.
- Young farmers have the drive and ambition to act, but they have to be at the centre of discussions and decision-making processes.
International Roundtable for Farmers' Organisations and Resilience Solutions of Farmers Agricord, Forest and Farm Facility, FAO
- Farmers’ and forest producers’ organisations hold a key role in the local national and global climate agenda and related policy work. Their inclusion in decision-making processes and climate initiatives is crucial in attaining climate targets and aiming for functionality of food systems.
- More direct investment and finance should be allocated for farmers organisations around the world to ensure agricultural extension services and climate advisory to smallholders, and to promote wider adoption of nature-based solutions (NbS).
- Farmers are disproportionally affected by climate change. Securing farm and forest livelihoods through grant based finance for adaptation, inclusive market mechanisms and technical support is the key to long term resilience and just transition in rural areas.
- Farmers long-term resilience should be supported by bridging short-term COVID-19 support and longer-term support for adaptation, mitigation and restoration initiatives recognising livelihood development and poverty eradication.
Poultry: Our net zero journey
- Consistent greenhouse gas (GHG) calculations and figures are needed for poultry businesses to benchmark themselves in a pre-competitive space.
- GHG calculations should be done on a nutritional basis to demonstrate the benefits of eating poultry meat and eggs as part of a balanced, healthy and sustainable diet.
- Changes to legislation, plus the buy-in of consumers and retailers are required to allow the use of insect and animal protein in feed to reduce soya usage. Investment is also needed from supply chain and government to foster innovation and drive research to help make novel proteins (for example insects, algae and home-grown protein crops) commercially viable.
- The poultry sector is market-led, so better communication with consumers and policy makers is needed to demonstrate the progress already made by poultry towards net zero and gain the support needed to go even further.
- Financial support is needed to allow businesses to adopt green technology that would otherwise not be commercially viable
- Science and evidence will be crucial to help the sector make evidence-based decisions and to help tell our story to the public.
- Clarity and commitment from government and retailers on long term priorities are needed to allow the poultry industry to create a framework for future progress.