Clause 4 - Multi-annual financial assistance plans

Part of Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Nicholas Fletcher Nicholas Fletcher Conservative, Don Valley 8:45 pm, 12th October 2020

I want to discuss Lords amendment 17. Although I believe it has good intentions, it is ill-thought-through and unnecessary, and would unfairly burden farmers who are already doing fantastic work to reduce carbon emissions.

The amendment would force the Secretary of State to introduce an interim climate change target for 2030, and make the Secretary of State commit to that target through regulations within six months of the Bill gaining Royal Assent. Although I agree that farmers should play their part in tackling climate change, I believe that the amendment is designed as a throwaway political point rather than something necessary.

First, the amendment would set a net zero target for farmers, but it provides little detail on how that could actually be achieved, despite its demand that regulations be introduced within a short 12-month timeframe. How could that be done? As has been highlighted in other debates in the Lords, unless there is a miraculous scientific breakthrough within a year, farmers will have no option but to produce less food in order to meet this new target. I do not understand how limiting the amount of British food on our shelves would be of any benefit, as it would negatively affect both farmers and consumers.

Secondly, the amendment would prevent the Government from focusing on other ways in which we can reach net zero. By having non-sector-specific targets, the Government can reduce our greenhouse gases in ways that are efficient and that mitigate any negative trade-offs. This amendment would unfairly punish farmers by making them reach a net zero target 20 years before other industries, many of which are more polluting than the agricultural sector. I do not understand the logic in that, and I am sure that farmers across the country will see it as deeply unfair, as agriculture is responsible for only 9% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. It should also be highlighted that the National Farmers Union has its own 2040 net-zero target, so the demand that it should somehow be reached by 2030 is not backed by either scientific evidence or our farmers.

I would like to end by reminding this House that we were the first major economy in the world to establish a net zero carbon target, and we can be proud of that. Let us also not forget that from 2010 to 2019, UK CO2 emissions fell by 29%, while our GDP grew by 18%. Although there is more to do, let us celebrate our achievements and continue to support sensible legislation which will ensure that we remain a world leader in reducing our carbon footprint.