Amendment 73

Agriculture Bill - Committee (4th Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:47 pm on 16th July 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

The Earl of Caithness:

Moved by The Earl of Caithness

73: Clause 1, page 2, line 35, at end insert “, and to reduce and sequester climate change emissions.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment would ensure that financial help can be given to help reduce climate change emissions.

Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative

My Lords, Amendment 73 stands in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. This is a simple amendment. About 25% of greenhouse gases come from agriculture. That percentage will increase as more green energy production comes online. What we can grow, and what we will be able to eat, will be determined by climate change.

We are watching the rapidly changing climate in the Arctic with some horror. That is of huge importance to us, as four of the six main systems that determine this country’s weather are driven by conditions in the Arctic. One example, and a pretty sobering one, is that the “beast from the east” that we experienced in March 2018 cost the UK about half the annual budget paid to farmers.

The Paris Agreement states that countries should be

“holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C … and pursuing efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C”.

We are likely to break that threshold of 1.5 degrees before the next general election.

All of the pathways in the IPCC’s special report say that there has to be the use of negative emissions; that is, the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. This is not an alternative to reducing emissions but an essential extra if the planet as we know it today is to survive. Our land is not absorbing as much CO2 as it could, and the priority should therefore be to restore nature to allow it to sequester increased amounts of CO2. That is what my amendment seeks to do.

I commend the NFU on the progress that it has made on this and on its template aim of net zero by 2040. We must give every encouragement to farmers to help them meet the reductions that will be necessary, and I believe that the Bill could do more on that. I had thought that my amendment would sit well at the end of Clause 1(1)(j) relating to soil, but I prefer it where it is, so that any financial payment would be conditional on meeting the reduction in sequestration condition. That is no more than what the Climate Change Committee asked for in its 2019 report, when it recommended:

“Financial payments in the UK Agriculture Bill should be linked to actions to reduce and sequester emissions, to take effect from 2022.”

I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and an even greater pleasure to hear a Conservative Peer—a hereditary one at that—speaking so eloquently about climate change, because this is a problem that the UK is not facing up to in a coherent way, so the more that we can do with this Bill, the better. It is not really a surprise that the concept of zero carbon is not in the Bill, because most of it was written before we signed up to that. It was drafted three years ago, and I regret that more redrafting was not done before it came before your Lordships’ House. The Government have had over a year since they put a commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 into law. I will be very forgiving with the Minister and suggest that they have just not got around to updating this legislation yet.

The amendments in the group, including my Amendment 274, seek to bring the Bill up to date with our net-zero carbon commitment and ensure that agriculture and land management play their proper role in achieving net zero. Agriculture plays a huge role in our carbon footprint and it will grow proportionally as other sources of emissions are reduced. It is therefore essential that the Government should set out a clear trajectory for agricultural emissions and a credible strategy to achieve that. Of course, we have to think about other parts of the economy as well. If we insist on carrying on flying as we did in the past pre coronavirus, other bits of the economy will have to do more to bring our emissions down to zero carbon—so there is that thought as well.

There are some differences between Amendments 272 and 274. Amendment 274 would require net-zero agriculture emissions by 2050, whereas Amendment 272 does not contain this net-zero requirement. Instead, it would require the Secretary of State to have “due regard” to Section 1 of the Climate Change Act. This would mean that agriculture would make some contribution towards the wider goal of net-zero emissions across the economy, but I believe that net zero is possible, and indeed achievable and desirable, for agriculture, and I urge noble Lords to aim to include the amendment in the Bill on Report.

I turn now to the Minister. I have a few things to which I hope that he or she—I cannot see who it is—can give a response. Does the Minister think that net-zero carbon emissions in agriculture is actually achievable by 2050, and what about the important role that setting this out in law will play at stimulating innovation and investment in the right things? Will the Minister undertake to work with noble Lords from across the House to update the Bill by Report stage to reflect the big change in net-zero legislation that occurred last year after the Bill was first drafted? I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Photo of The Earl of Devon The Earl of Devon Crossbench

My Lords, we spent the first three days of this debate discussing the baubles that were to adorn the Christmas tree under Clause 1 on ELMS. We are now somewhat getting to the meat of the matter and considering, in my view, the Christmas tree itself. But I am concerned that if this Christmas tree Bill is allowed to pass into law in the manner in which it is currently drafted, it may well wither and die before any of those ELMS baubles can be appreciated. The reason for that—I raised this issue at Second Reading—is the transition gap, or perhaps more pertinently, the transition chasm across which many farms may not make it in the years between 2021 and 2028, when ELMS are due to come into effect.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, spoke about the “cataclysmic changes” that will occur to farming as a result of this legislation, and I do not think that she is overstating the position. As a result of this legislation, we will see over the coming years a dramatic decrease in the basic payments that farmers receive. At some point, those payments will be replaced by a series of payments under ELMS, but, as we are well aware after three days of interesting but very varied and somewhat random debate, the details of the scheme are years away from completion, and farmers simply do not know what will replace the essential income that they currently receive. My real concern is that this will have a dramatic effect on the environmental impact and environmental outcomes of farming. This is based on personal experience as well as discussions with the NFU and others, and it stems from a number of different angles.

For a number of farmers, the loss of the BPS will be fatal to their businesses, and those businesses will go out of business. The result will be that land will either fall fallow and therefore deteriorate—the environmental impact of that is considerably negative—or it will be sold to a more commercial neighbouring farmer who will be able to increase productivity and thus increase environmental degradation. Other considerations are that those farmers who are able to survive the transition chasm will do so only by tightening their belts. From a personal perspective, I have been advised not to invest heavily in capital projects at this time; why invest in something now for which you might well be paid by ELMS later? The conversations that I have had with agricultural and environmental advisers along the same lines conclude exactly the same thing: they are advising all their clients to hold off making any major productivity and environmental investments at this time because we simply do not know what is going to happen and we may be paid for these things at some point in the future. The net result of that will be a catastrophic drop-off in environmental gains.

My amendment is a very simple one that I recommend to noble Lords as a somewhat shorter amendment than Amendments 272 and 274, although I believe that it is targeted at the same thing. It asks that the Secretary of State should confirm that the implementation of this legislation will not negatively impact our progress towards net zero by 2050. The amendment is worded in that way for a specific reason. It is not that it will stop us achieving net zero by 2050; it is that, during the time between 2021 and 2028, our progress towards those goals will not be negatively impacted; that is, we will not go backwards.

The next five, six or seven years are absolutely crucial if we are to have any hope of reaching the monumental target of net zero, but introducing a system that simply forces us to take backward steps is not, I believe, appropriate. My amendment was inspired by the decision of R v Secretary of State for Transport with respect to the Heathrow runway. It seems that Parliament should not be passing legislation that is contrary to those net-zero targets and we should not be passing legislation until we have satisfied ourselves that this will not have a negative environmental impact.

Photo of Lord Randall of Uxbridge Lord Randall of Uxbridge Conservative 3:00 pm, 16th July 2020

My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 274, although I am thoroughly behind the other amendments in this group. I will not go down the line of Heathrow; it always gets me excited because I am firmly opposed to any expansion there.

There is really nothing further that I would say; the eloquent speech of my noble friend Lord Caithness really said it all. I also pay tribute to the NFU for its work on trying to reduce carbon emissions. I am very keen for us to get on with this discussion and debate, so the only thing that I will say is that one thing that is sometimes forgotten when we talk about sequestering carbon emissions is wetlands. That is something that we can look at very seriously in the Bill. If the noble Earl, Lord Devon, is correct and there will be problems, wetlands may be the answer. The Bill may supply the answer to how that is done.

We want to get on with the Bill, though, because while we have been congratulating and paying tribute to farmers and land managers all along, if we are not careful and do not get this legislation through, we will not be able to pay them.

Photo of Baroness Worthington Baroness Worthington Crossbench

My Lords, it is my pleasure to speak to Amendment 73 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and Amendment 274. I also strongly support the other amendments in this group.

Like many, I have been listening to the many varied and fascinating debates that have surrounded the Bill in Committee. I am holding myself back and contributing only to this group of amendments. This is partly because, while this is not my area of expertise, I look at this through the lens of the need for us to take a whole-economy approach to climate change. This is therefore the group on which I thought I had the most relevant comments to make. I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I speak for a little longer than others have on this group, just to articulate why it is so fundamental to the Bill’s success that we address climate change front and centre in the Bill.

The Agriculture Bill is essentially a framework piece of legislation, but the collection of measures in it lack an overriding purpose and an overriding legislative goal for which we can hold the Government to account. The function of moving from the current system of the common agricultural policy to a new set of parameters and rules that the UK can set for itself is welcome. We all know that the current system of subsidies for agriculture has had many impacts, many of them environmental but many of them social, and this has affected how we interact with our land. We now have an opportunity to set a new path, and the Government should be commended for the policy statements they have made and the signals they have given about this new change in direction. That is very timely and will be very significant for generations to come.

With that, I ask the Minister if the Government could seriously consider adding a clause to the Bill that would make it perfectly clear that it is part of an endeavour to realign our agricultural and food sector with that goal of being climate-compatible and net zero by 2050. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has eloquently made the point that this sector, more than any other, will feel the impact of a disturbed climate—a climate that can no longer be predicted, where extreme weather events impact our ability to grow food and sustain our land in the way that we have been accustomed to. It is imperative that we take action in the long term to secure a stable climate.

The other interesting fact about agriculture and food is that both are a source of climate change emissions and greenhouse gases but also a significant sink—a way of absorbing more of the excess greenhouse gases back into our soils, our forestry and our land. So the sector is in a unique position, both to reduce its own impact and to increase its ability to be a central part of the solution for getting to net zero. For those reasons, it is imperative that we make that clear in the objectives of the Bill. Clause 1 says that future payments will be tied to environmental sustainability, but that is not precise or clear enough to give the Bill the direction of travel that it really needs or to give clarity about the purpose of the Bill and this change of direction.

At the moment, when we think about tackling climate change, one of the most politically difficult issues is that of who will pay for taking actions that at the moment may cost more but that we know will be beneficial for future generations. With agriculture, we are in a unique position in that we already see large sums of public money going into the sector. There is no need to discuss how we introduce a carbon price and no need to talk about taxation. We have a system that already sees a large amount of money from taxpayers flowing into the sector. It is fully understood that that can continue through a transition period, but we will be attaching a requirement that those payments deliver a public good. That public good, as defined through the lens of climate change, would see large amounts of money being given to farmers who found innovative ways and solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance our ability to store carbon in our land.

This is a huge and exciting opportunity for the Government. We have set out for this net-zero target, we have legislated for it and we have led the world in doing so, but now we really need to demonstrate that we understand what that means and we know what policies we will need to get us there. The more cost-effective those policies are, the more we can point to our success and see other countries follow that path. We have an opportunity with this redirection of public money to demonstrate that it is eminently possible and hugely exciting to achieve net zero in our agriculture, food and forestry sectors at an accelerated pace.

If the Government are able to craft their own version of this group of amendments, clearly setting out that it is a core aim and we will see net-zero provided through this sector, it will be a fantastic opportunity to provide clarity for the sector. As we approach the next conference of parties of the UNFCCC in Glasgow next year, which we are hosting, we will also be able to point to our own domestic legislation to show that when we talk about the need to drastically reduce emissions and stabilise the climate, we are not just talking about it but doing it. We are putting in place the sectoral policies and sectoral laws that will drive investment.

This will be an opportunity. There is no doubt in my mind that, as we transition from the current subsidy system to a new system, it will be greatly beneficial to have a carbon target for the sector because it will draw in investment from other parts of the economy. If we wish to reduce our taxpayers’ subsidy into the sector, what better way than to do so through private sector investment paying for the public good of carbon reduction, carbon removal and carbon abatement in this sector? It will relieve pressure on the public purse and enable money to flow into the sector from those sectors finding it harder to abate. That is a wonderful opportunity, and with a bit of thought we can make that explicit in the Bill.

To summarise, this group of amendments deserves careful attention from the Government. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s reply, and we hope to see the Government take this on and bring something forward. This is not just about climate change; it is an opportunity to create clarity and drive inward investment and private money into the sector. It is an opportunity for the UK to develop a set of framework legislation that we can be duly proud of and which we can announce and discuss in the global context in Glasgow next year.

I, too, pay tribute to the NFU and all the farmers who are potentially running ahead of many in government and many commentators in acknowledging that this can be done and that it is an exciting opportunity. They believe that we can get to net zero in this sector earlier than 2050. We should be giving them legislation that makes it completely clear that we as a society, as a whole, are backing them in that and want to create the right framework to enable them to do it.

I will not detain the House any longer, but I hope I have conveyed my enthusiasm for this group of amendments. It would be fantastic to see a version of any of the four of them in the Bill in its next stage. I very much look forward to the reply from the Front Bench.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

My Lords, this is a very important amendment. It is a rather historic occasion, because I cannot recall any other occasion on which I have associated myself with the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, politically, but I completely associate myself with him on this occasion. For me it is quite simple: if we will the ends, we have to will the means. It is clear that agriculture not only contributes to the problem but could be doing far more to help solve the problem. We all have to think, wherever we are in society, how we can change our ways in order to play a practical part in this urgent priority for the survival of the human race. I therefore commend the amendment and am very glad to see the other amendments in the group addressing ways in which agriculture can contribute towards the objective—not just how it can restrain itself, but how it can contribute. This is a practical priority, and I hope the Government take it very seriously.

Photo of Lord Tyler Lord Tyler Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Constitutional and Political Reform)

My Lords, all Members have emphasised just how significant and timely this group of amendments is. I particularly support Amendments 272 and 274. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, referred to last night’s shock report from the Met Office-led investigation into the effect of manmade carbon emissions in the Arctic and the effect, therefore, on UK weather. That should be a very loud alarm call. I think we are all very conscious of the problems that have arisen from the sequential scrutiny of this Bill and the forthcoming Environment Bill. Very clever co-ordination is obviously essential. In agricultural circles I think we would refer to it as cross-compliance.

I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues believe that the thrust of these two amendments is essential. Indeed, it is difficult at this stage to decide between them: we may want to find ways in which they could be brought together at Report, depending on the Minister’s response. We are very proud of the role that our colleague, Ed Davey, played as the Cabinet member who prepared the UK for the Paris climate change conference in 2015. For that reason, to some extent, I have a slight preference for Amendments 272, since it seems to be firmly rooted in the Paris agreement and the developments, policy and commitments in the process since then. The link to the Climate Change Act 2008 in both amendments is, of course, entirely right in UK legislative terms. However, we respect and wish to encourage recognition of the way in which British Ministers have taken a leading role in the EU, in a real partnership, to maintain momentum since Paris in 2015. That is specifically acknowledged in Amendment 272 at subsection (1)(b).

The detailed rules, procedures and guidelines adopted at the follow-up UN conference in December 2018 are critical in this context and, of course, they are binding on the UK, as any other treaty obligation. This country will be obliged to report on success in meeting emission reduction targets in agriculture in a transparent, complete, comparable and consistent format. Should that not be spelled out in the Bill? It would be very helpful to do that as we look forward to Glasgow next year.

The balance in terms of emissions is hugely complex. As has been acknowledged and mentioned already, agriculture and forestry land naturally hold large stocks of carbon, preventing its escape into the atmosphere. Yet, on the other hand, activities in all sectors of agriculture can contribute disproportionately to emissions. Both sides of the equation are, therefore, very significant in terms of the Bill. On the one hand, emissions can take place when plants die or decay; on the other, the draining of peatland, the felling of woodland or the ploughing of grassland can remove vital carbon sinks. I am told that the release of just 0.1% of the carbon currently stored in European soils, including those in this country, would equal the annual emissions from as many as 100 million vehicles. This is very significant, so it is an essential objective of the Bill to target financial assistance for short, medium and long-term environmental benefits, not least in terms of reducing carbon emissions.

I think we all welcome the renewed ministerial emphasis on the challenge of our climate change commitments over the last few days, renewing the priority given by the coalition Government. We look forward to a positive response from the Minister to this group of amendments.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative 3:15 pm, 16th July 2020

My Lords, I declare my interests in Suffolk as in the register. I am rather doubtful of the wisdom of some of these amendments on climate change, especially Amendments 272 and 274. I believe they are too declaratory and unrealistically mandatory to be part of the Bill.

Of course, the great majority of us believe that we must do what we can to reduce carbon emissions and the consequences they can have on the climate, and much can be done. Farmers have to live and work within the constraints of climate. There is probably no group that keeps a closer eye on the weather: the climate is a practical reality for farmers. The weather can and does have a huge impact on farmers’ prosperity and, indeed, economic survival. For example, the drought in England this April and May will have a severe effect on the 2020 harvest. But the idea that the Government can:

“Within 12 months … publish a strategy outlining how Her Majesty’s Government plans to reduce the emissions resulting from agriculture”,

is so unrealistic as to be absurd.

I warn noble Lords that quite a lot of misinformation is used in this climate change argument. I shall give one example. A few years ago, I heard my noble friend Lord Deben, who is a great panjandrum on this issue, start a speech on climate change with the story that one of his constituents had had to abandon growing apples because of the great reduction in rainfall in recent years. I live and farm in my noble friend’s former constituency. Like many farmers, we keep daily rainfall records. From 1945, rainfall has been measured with the same gauge, located in the same part of Marlesford. Over those 75 years, the results are revealing. The average annual rainfall over the whole period has been 25.81 inches. This data is based on more than 27,000 measures of rainfall. The 2019 total was 28 inches, about 9% above the long-term average. The rainfall in 2018 was 22 inches, about 22% below the average. But the most recent 10 years, 2010 to 2019, at 26 inches, has been remarkably close to the 75-year average.

The 10-year period with the highest rainfall was 1999 to 2008, when there was nearly 29 inches—20% more than in the 10-year period with the lowest rainfall. The first 10 years after the war averaged 24.67 inches. The wettest year in the whole 75 years was 2012, with 34 inches, which is virtually double the rainfall in the two driest years—1953 and 1959—when there was 17 inches. The 10-year average has helped to iron out short-term weather-related fluctuations, but the question must be: how do we interpret a 5% increase in this part of Suffolk over the 75 years from 1945?

Climate change is a crucial issue and there will need to be regulations to encourage, and indeed require, farmers to reduce emissions, but let these come forward as and when they are ready, based on their own merits. There is quite enough in this important Bill without loading it with what are in effect political declarations.

Photo of Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Non-affiliated

My Lords, I support Amendment 73 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and Amendments 272 and 274, in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb.

Protecting the environment is important to me. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, I believe that over the last 10 years we have seen many severe weather events that have had a direct impact on our land, our nature and, above all, our soil texture and quality. The land has been leached of essential nutrients, thereby disabling agricultural production and the capacity to produce food. This debate is really all about food and the quality of food for consumption by all our citizens.

There is a value and a benefit to the environment in making financial provision, financial entitlement and financial qualification a means of encouraging a reduction in climate change emissions. It is worth remembering that our Select Committee report entitled Hungry for Change, which was published last week, stated that the features of a sustainable food system are that it should be environmentally sustainable, that land must be managed to ensure that it is used appropriately and is continuously viable for food production, and that the negative impacts of GHG emissions and water and air pollution on habitats and diversity must be substantially reduced, while carbon sequestration and flood management are enhanced. It is important that the forthcoming national food strategy considers those factors, as well as ensuring that our food supply is socially and economically viable.

Therefore, I have no problem in supporting these amendments, because I believe that we have to reduce our CO2 emissions. We have to make that contribution to net-zero emissions and there should be financial payments to our farming folk that recognise that. What better way to do that than to recognise it on the face of the Bill? I hope that in replying the Minister will indicate the Government’s response to these amendments and set out how they intend to contribute to net-zero emissions through farming and food production.

Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour

My Lords, I support Amendments 272 and 274 in the names of the two noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Jones, respectively—you can never have too many Lady Joneses, in my view.

These amendments would put an urgency and a framework into the objective of substantially reducing the carbon impact of farming, and would include a series of targets and interim targets in line with successive carbon budgets under the Climate Change Act. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said that the amendments were too declamatory and mandatory, and that is why I support them. We need a bit of backbone to make sure that this vital purpose is achieved.

Agriculture accounts for 11% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, and that percentage has not reduced very much over the last 10 years. Unless change can be incentivised financially, agriculture will account for a greater proportion of our UK emissions, as other sectors decarbonise quickly. On the other hand, land is an essential resource for tackling climate change through its ability to sequester and store carbon, and that needs to be taken into account at the same time.

I know that the Minister will say that the purposes in Clause 1 already enable support to be provided for measures to combat climate change. However, the amendments before us provide a much stronger framework to drive the urgent changes required in agricultural practice, and I urge him to consider the extra welly that they will provide for this vital purpose.

Photo of Lord Clark of Windermere Lord Clark of Windermere Labour

My Lords, I very much associate myself with the thrust of these four amendments. They highlight something which is absolutely critical, and we can think of this as we go through Covid-19, because, although the pandemic is serious, it is not as serious as climate change.

Here, we have a set of amendments that sets modern agriculture in Britain within the context of our climate change challenge. It is a big challenge but one that we have to face and, in fact, win. I very much associate myself with the comments of my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone. In particular, I support Amendment 272 in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch, although I equally support the amendment in the name of the other noble Baroness, Lady Jones.

If we had to invent a machine to lead the campaign against carbon emissions, that would be quite difficult, but nature has provided us with just such a machine. It has provided us with trees. Trees absorb carbon as they grow and retain carbon as they mature: in their leaves, their trunk, their bark, their roots and their soil—it is all there. Although we do not have many woods and trees in this country, we all have ambitions to have more. To give one statistic, one young mixed wood captures 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare. It is a very efficient way of meeting our climate change target, and this Bill will help, because more trees will be planted.

I want to raise something with the Minister which I hope he or she will look at. We all talk about planting trees because they provide so many benefits—in this case, we are talking about climate change—but if you remove trees, you do exactly the opposite, with the saving grace that if you replant, you start the whole process again. There is a law in this country that says that before a tree of a certain size is felled, a licence must be obtained. However, I am afraid that that legislation is hardly ever applied. It is when it comes to large areas of trees, because, just as individuals might get grants to plant trees, they have to get permission to fell.

I have noticed particularly in the last few years that thousands of trees, as in the Lake District National Park, are being chopped down: people buy a house and then they chop the trees down—not even in their own garden but on associated land—to improve the view. That is wrong. It is defeating the object of what we are trying to do. I am not asking the Government to do anything today, but will the Minister discuss the problem with the Forestry Commission and local authorities to see whether that legislation needs to be applied more rigorously?

Photo of Lord Holmes of Richmond Lord Holmes of Richmond Non-affiliated 3:30 pm, 16th July 2020

My Lords, I venture to say that the amendments in this group can be summed up as: what purpose profit if there is no habitable planet to spend it on? What purpose fine produce if there is no habitable planet on which to enjoy it? Does the Minister agree that the potential to achieve net zero will completely depend on the combination of talent and technology? I thank the NFU for all the work it has done in this area; it is ahead of a number of curves in this respect. Does the Minister recognise the need for far greater consideration of and investment in all the elements of 4IR, not least distributed ledger technology and robotics? If we are to achieve the purposes set out in these amendments—or indeed the overall governmental purpose—we need to accept and be proud that nuclear will be part of that mix. Would the Minister care to say something on the investment potential, not just for small modular reactors to assist in this but in the race for nuclear fusion? This could enable such innovation, not just in agriculture but across the economy. I will be very interested to hear the Minister’s comments.

Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Deputy Chairman of Committees

For the benefit of Members tuning in remotely, it might be helpful to know that the Minister responding will be the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield. I call the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

My Lords, that is indeed helpful. I am pleased to speak in support of all these amendments but particularly Amendment 272, tabled by my noble friends Lady Jones, Lord Grantchester and Lord Judd. I endorse everything said by my noble friend Lord Clark of Windermere about trees. He speaks with authority as a former chair of the Forestry Commission. I hope the Minister will take account of every word he said.

Central to all these amendments is incorporating in the Bill the principle that our future farming framework has climate change and our net-zero emissions target at its very core, as was outlined so eloquently by my noble friend Lady Worthington. I am pleased to be a member of the organisation Peers for the Planet, which she and my noble friend Lady Hayman were instrumental in setting up. They have been doing an excellent job in driving forward discussion and debate on the key issues relating to this Bill. Like them, I want to see a more sustainable farming system which incorporates a good balance between food production, sustainable land use, biodiversity protection and emissions reduction. As we know—most of us, anyway, I hope—time is of the essence. We need a clear plan to put these goals into action and give ourselves a fighting chance of meeting our 2050 target. Important to this is providing the necessary tools, funding and infrastructure to support our food and farming industry in order to make this transition possible.

I support the specific requirement, outlined in Amendments 272 and 274, that the Government must publish a strategy within 12 months of the Bill becoming law. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, claimed that this was absurd but he did not give any reason why. It is not absurd; it is absolutely vital. This strategy must outline plans to reduce emissions from agriculture and its associated land use, and it must set out interim emissions targets for 2030 so that we can make substantial progress towards the 2050 target.

I turn to another aspect of Amendment 272. I am speaking as a Scottish Peer, along with many others today. Looking around, I see Peers from Caithness, Montrose, Old Scone, Glenscorrodale, whose contribution is to come; and there is me, from Cumnock. We represent almost every corner of our great country of Scotland. I am keen to highlight the need for strong co-operation among all the nations of the United Kingdom. Noble Lords may recall that I raised this issue in Committee last week. Amendment 272 would require the Government to publish a future farming strategy and oblige the Secretary of State to consult devolved Ministers. We have already had disputes between the UK Government and devolved nations, and these look increasingly likely after Brexit. It is therefore critical that any discussions and decisions about a future farming strategy place the devolved nations, as well as the industry and farmers themselves, in the starting line-up, rather than relegating them to the subs’ bench—if I can be excused a footballing metaphor.

As many in the farming industry and beyond continue to argue, we need a whole-system approach to support this transition—critically, one that instils collaboration across our four nations. I hope the Minister can assure that that will happen.

Photo of The Duke of Montrose The Duke of Montrose Conservative

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, as he bangs the drum for Scotland’s place in the union. I declare my interest as a lifetime livestock producer. I support my noble friend Lord Caithness in his Amendment 73, which flags up one of the great challenges facing agricultural production. Noble Lords will know that when the Kyoto Protocol was signed in December 1997, there was an awareness that, as well as the industrial emissions on which the subsequent climate action was largely focused, emissions from land use would need to be incorporated.

At that point, knowledge about emissions from agricultural production had not got much beyond rarefied academic studies. The difference now is that, since the Paris Agreement of 2015, Governments are required to pursue agricultural emissions as a major policy consideration. These amendments focus on that aspect. From a practical farmer’s point of view, I see immense scientific research around the world into both emissions levels and ways to reduce them. This indicates that we have not yet arrived at a full understanding of how these complex systems work and interact. I particularly think of the Oxford Martin School studies on the lack of persistent methane emissions in the atmosphere.

One of the quainter remedies I have come across to alleviate cattle emissions is mixing biochar—a form of charcoal—into the regular feed. As we strive to improve our current understanding of emission levels, I put it to my noble friend the Minister that the one thing we must not do is import agricultural produce—I think particularly of beef—which has a higher carbon footprint than that which we have achieved here, no matter how cheap it appears to be. It is important that our government policy and research have this element firmly in their sights. This amendment would ensure that it was on the face of the Bill.

I have much sympathy with Amendment 144A, in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Devon; this is obviously dependent on what methods are found to reduce greenhouse gas production. On Amendment 272, we need more clarity regarding what is meant by

“agriculture and associated land use”.

A great deal of government policy on achieving net-zero emissions seems to be based on taking land out of agriculture. The idea that agriculture on its own could reduce emissions to 100% below 1990 levels appears a bit fanciful.

Photo of Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Labour

My Lords, I support the general thrust of these amendments and I hope that the Government will listen carefully to this debate and perhaps come back with the best of each amendment in future stages. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, made a very powerful contribution in support of his Amendment 73.

Obviously, there are some differences between Amendments 272 and 274, but I will address in particular the point that my noble friend Lord Foulkes made about the fact that Amendment 272 mentions specifically the need to work with the devolved Governments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. At each level of government in the United Kingdom, there is a responsibility to tackle climate change and each of these devolved Governments have specific legislative responsibilities for agriculture. If we are to make the case in this debate, and perhaps beyond, for a tighter connection in the Bill to the climate change targets, it makes sense that engaging with the devolved Governments would be a key component of that. There needs to be, in my view, far better co-ordination and agreement at all levels of government—local, national and UK—if we are to meet these targets by 2050.

The idea of including the climate change targets in this Agriculture Bill is inspired. The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, made that case very powerfully when she talked about the leadership that the United Kingdom could show in what may end up being the largest Bill to come before your Lordships’ Chamber—and maybe our longest debates—this year. This Bill, taking back powers from the European Union and setting out a new strategy for British agriculture to be so closely aligned with the climate change targets, would be a very powerful signal not only inside but outwith the United Kingdom in the run-up to the summit in Glasgow, now in 2021. For reasons of the opportunities that the noble Baroness outlined and the leadership that we could show, I think these amendments are on the right lines.

If I may be allowed to digress slightly for a second, I tried to intervene last Thursday in Committee but had connection problems and was not able to make one very small specific point that in fact relates to this topic today. Amendment 12, which was debated last Thursday, used the phrase:

“the impact of climate change on agriculture”.

The amendment proposed this as one of the additional purposes to which the Government could provide finance. I felt at the time that this was the wrong way round and that it should have been about the impact of agriculture on climate change. That would be more in keeping with the amendments in front of us today, which are about the impact of agriculture on climate change. Perhaps those who were involved in moving Amendment 12 last week might think about that before we reach Report. I look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness the Minister has to say in response.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour

My Lords, I know that the Government are frustrated at the very slow progress of the Bill and, although we are very grateful for the extremely assiduous responses we have received from both Ministers—the noble Baroness and the noble Lord—I know there is concern at the slow progress.

In my experience of legislation passing through the House, a pattern establishes itself and, once you see the pattern, you understand the underlying issue of the approach that the House is taking to a Bill. It is very clear to me what the issue is in respect of this Bill. The Bill—which is of huge significance for the future of one of our major national industries as we leave the European Union—is, essentially, a framework Bill. It contains very little policy. It sets out a whole range of permissive provisions that enable the Government to do X, Y and Z but only one or two broad-brush policy statements, such as the noble Lord’s statement in our earlier debates that the Government will not subsidise food because that should be left to the market; in fact, is it clear to me that, even in our debates on that, when it comes to issues of shortage, scarcity and crisis, the Government not only have, but are proposing to take, significant new powers in that regard. Leaving aside very broad-brush statements of that kind, we do not know what the Government’s policy will be hereafter.

What is now happening is that, in group after group—as in this group on the crucial issue of how we will tackle carbon emissions and climate change—noble Lords are tabling a whole series of probing amendments on absolutely critical issues to do with the whole future of this national industry, because we do not know what the Government’s actual policy is. We know what policies are in other areas; we know what our climate change targets are in respect of the underlying issue in this group of amendments, but we do not know—because the Government have not said—what their policy will be in terms of the new financial and regulatory regime for this huge industry going forward. All we know is that this Bill gives the Government a set of framework powers that enable them to do anything or nothing. That is the absolute truth of the matter.

I could make a wider set of points about how this just reflects the great national crisis that we are going through. Indeed, we are going through two national crises: the Covid-19 crisis, obviously, but also the Brexit crisis. We are having to put in place a whole set of policy and legislative frameworks to deal with the massive self-inflicted wound of Brexit.

For those of us taking part in the debate who do our very best to facilitate the passage of wise government legislation and fully understand that we are a revising Chamber and should not seek to challenge the premise of Bills that have a majority in the House of Commons, this probing is absolutely essential so that we have some idea of what these powers might be used for. As a second Chamber, our job is surely to probe and seek to elucidate what the Government’s policies will be in respect of the use of the powers under this Bill. That is what we will need to do when it comes to inserting additional provisions on Report.

I have listened intently to these debates because what will happen to this big national industry is so important. I have detected in them that somebody I have never heard of before, called Henry Dimbleby, turns out to be a person of extreme importance. The noble Lord the Minister told us earlier that Mr Dimbleby is drawing up the national food strategy. It turns out—this goes to the heart of the point that I have just been making—that the national food strategy has still not been published. Apparently it will not be available until the end of the year, so we have a massive cart and horse problem in dealing with this Bill.

Since the Minister told us that Mr Dimbleby is a figure of such importance to the development of policy in this area, I have been assiduously reading his speeches. The speech that seems to be most revealing is one that he gave to the Oxford Farming Conference in January, where he set out a whole set of considerations that would feed into—forgive the pun—the national food strategy but did not say what the result would be, which is very frustrating for those of us trying to grapple with the Bill.

However, I just note, because it is very important for this debate—and I hope that the noble Baroness the Minister might respond to it—that in the speech Mr Dimbleby gave to the Oxford Farming Conference, the thing that he flagged up as being the most significant factor in the development of the regulatory and financial framework for the future of farming and agriculture was climate change. He said:

“Every stage of the farming process exacerbates the carbon crisis; the forests cleared to plant crops; the energy-intensive manufacture of fertiliser; the release of carbon from degrading soils; the methane produced by rice paddies and livestock; the energy used by manufacturing plants and retail outlets; and the fuel used to power the vehicles in the supply chain.”

He then continued in a later part of that speech:

“So, there’s a simple story.”

In the past, he said:

“We focussed on an existential risk—growing enough food so we didn’t starve—and we largely solved that problem. But as we increased the amount of food available to eat, we ate more and got heavier. And as we got heavier, we got sick. And as we increased the amount of food we grew on our land, we drove out nature and increased our carbon emissions.”

On the face of it, the statements Mr Dimbleby has made would lead to quite bold policies of regulation and financial incentives to reduce carbon emissions. Indeed, it is hard to see that they could be achieved without accepting the amendments proposed in this group. I would be grateful to hear from the Minister whether the Government agree with what their adviser, Henry Dimbleby, said in his speech at the Oxford Farming Conference in January. If they agree, I cannot see why they would not accept the amendment from the noble Earl, Lord Caithness—a framework amendment simply making climate change a consideration under Clause 1(4), which sets out the broad framework objectives for policy and financial support in respect of agriculture —and possibly the other amendments.

Photo of Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 3:45 pm, 16th July 2020

My Lords, this suite of amendment deals with the critical issue of climate change. Agriculture has an important part to play in helping the UK meet its emissions targets. I have spoken previously in support of the introduction of an interim emissions target for 2030; 2050 is a long way off and I certainly will not be here to see that day, but with luck I just might be here in 2030. I would like to think that I could contribute in some small way to reducing the emissions the country produces. Having an interim target at 2030 gives a much more realistic goal for everyone to aim for. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, said, it provides backbone.

Industry, agriculture, local authorities and individual households all have their part to play. For all these sectors, 2050 is just a date in the future and means little, but 2030 would be a much more meaningful goal—especially if agriculture has its own carbon target. Children born this year will be 10. Those now aged five will be 15 and very definitely waking up to the type of world they inhabit. We have a duty and responsibility to ensure that we have made strides towards reducing emissions and tackling climate change. I can hear their voices now, shouting as only enraged teenagers can, “What did you do about it, when you knew the disastrous impact of not tackling climate change?”. I wonder whether they will care about the Paris Agreement.

Zero carbon is really important and flying abroad for our holidays—as some of us may be considering at the moment—will not help achieve this. The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, spoke knowledgably about realigning agriculture to reduce the impact on emissions and climate change. The system is already there to make payments for public goods, store carbon and reduce emissions.

My noble friend Lord Tyler raised the Met Office report on the impact of our activities on the Arctic, which is really shocking. This is not something to be left to some other piece of legislation. He also raised the inextricable links with the Environment Bill. It is not acceptable to leave this issue solely to the Environment Bill; there must be synergies between these two Bills. Beginning with a substantial commitment in the Agriculture Bill will be the start that everyone is looking for. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, tells us that 75% of greenhouse gases come from agriculture, and the NFU offers encouragement to farmers to reduce their emissions.

It is a pity that I am speaking before the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, so have not heard her arguments in favour of her Amendment 272. Having heard her speak on this subject before, I have no hesitation in supporting what she will say, especially on consulting and working with the devolved Administrations.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, asks for clarification on policy as this is a framework Bill and gives no information. I agree with him completely that this is what has produced all these probing amendments. I agree with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, the noble Earls, Lord Devon and Lord Caithness, and my noble friend Lord Tyler, who spoke about the effect of draining peat bogs and cutting down trees. I look forward to the Minister telling us when a future farming strategy will be produced, as promoted by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes. I hope I will be able to agree with the Minister’s response when she makes it.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My Lords, as noble Lords have commented, we have Amendment 272 in this group. It sets out a requirement to publish within 12 months a strategy setting out how agriculture and land use will play their part in delivering our 2050 net-zero obligations under the Climate Change Act, with regulations to set an interim emissions target by 2030. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, I hope to be around for at least that date, if not longer. Several noble Lords have welcomed that it also requires consultation with the devolved nations and other interested groups on how we will deliver those targets.

I believe that our amendment and Amendment 274 aim to do the same thing. I thank all noble Lords who have supported those amendments and Amendment 73. Forgive me if I do not name-check everybody who has spoken, but I think we have more or less reached a common cause.

We obviously welcome the reference in Clause 1(1)(d) that funding will be available to manage

“land, water or livestock in a way that mitigates or adapts to climate change”,

but here the details end. We believe that confronting the threat of climate change should be at the heart of the Bill. This is why we have tabled a new clause to help deliver a strategy for agriculture that would set us on our way to meet those targets.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, that the Government are already a signatory to the Paris treaty. Indeed, the recent Heathrow judgment shows that they already have a legal obligation to have regard to that treaty, so we need a plan to deliver what is effectively a legal obligation, declaratory or not. That is why our Amendment 272 specifically links back around to the Paris treaty and our obligations under it.

Meanwhile, the Committee on Climate Change’s latest report, published last month, shows once again that we are nowhere near being on target to meet the Government’s net-zero target of 2050, and agriculture has a long way to go to deliver its share of the greenhouse gas reductions. Its report says that

“the current voluntary approach has failed to cut agricultural emissions, there has been no coherent policy to improve the resilience of the agriculture sector, and tree planting … has failed outside of Scotland … Progress remains significantly off track in adaptation to build climate resilience.”

In a separate letter from the committee to the Minister, Victoria Prentis, on the potential of the environmental land management schemes, it also raises a critical issue that has been a running theme in our recent debates: the lack of a joined-up government approach within Defra to the climate change crisis. Its letter says:

“Defra has yet to set out how ELM, the Environment Bill, the 25 Year Environment Plan and various policies … for trees,

This is extremely well said, and this has been our experience whenever climate change targets are raised. We are always told that this work is happening in another department or another policy brief within the department, but it is clearly not happening with any serious impact. As the recent Natural Capital Committee report commented, the 25-year environment plan, which should be monitoring progress, remains a long list of ambitions with “little evidence of improvements”.

The fact is that agriculture is not on track with any of its indicators and there has been little progress in reducing emissions since 2008. We cannot keep talking about these issues; we are now required to take action. On the one hand, we need action to cut greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture through, for example, changing land use, fewer food miles, less methane, less pollution and better water storage; on the other, we need to increase mitigation through, for example, planting trees, restoring peatlands, changing people’s diets, restoring soil and so on. Of course, sequestration can play its part, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, quite rightly points out in his amendment.

Let us be honest: we know that this will mean some painful decisions and difficult choices, which is presumably why the Government are making so little progress. But we cannot afford to duck this issue any longer. The evidence is clearly there that global warming of 2 degrees or above will have a catastrophic impact on our lifestyle and livelihoods, with many parts of the globe becoming uninhabitable. So I hope noble Lords will feel able to support our amendment. It provides a clear framework to take this work forward, with full consultation across the UK and a report to Parliament so that our progress, or lack of it, cannot be hidden away.

Finally, I listened to the noble Earl, Lord Devon. Indeed, I normally have great respect for his thoughts on this matter. I will reflect on his comments, which were well made. My concern is that it might have the opposite effect from his intention and actually delay the introduction of measures to deliver net zero in agriculture even further. I am sure that we can have that discussion at a later stage.

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 4:00 pm, 16th July 2020

I thank my noble friend Lord Caithness for Amendment 73, with which I will take Amendment 144A from the noble Earl, Lord Devon, Amendment 272 from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and Amendment 274 from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. I thank all noble Lords who contributed to the debate.

From listening to many of the contributions, one would hardly think that, last June, the UK became the first major economy in the world to set a legally binding target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from across the UK economy by 2050. The UK already has a very strong foundation of action and leadership to build from, having cut our emissions by 42% since 1990, while growing the economy by 72%.

Climate change is a global challenge, requiring action across the whole economy. Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, I believe that urgency is felt across government. Defra has worked with the industry to reduce emissions through improved productivity. Since 1990, we are producing a litre of milk with 20% less greenhouse gas emissions, and a kilogram of pork with 37% less. Efficiency gains in dairy farming mean that we now produce 9% more milk than we did in 2000 with 23% fewer cows and 9% less greenhouse gas emissions.

Targets are set under the Climate Change Act, but we do not have sector-specific targets under that Act. Indeed, we are following the whole-economy approach advocated so eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. This is to ensure that we meet our climate change commitments at the lowest possible net cost to UK taxpayers, consumers and businesses, while maximising the social and economic benefits to the UK of the transition. To take up the points made by the noble Baroness, we think that the whole purpose of Clause 1 is clear, as expressed in subsection (4). In framing financial assistance schemes, we will have regard to the need to encourage environmentally sustainable food production, which will align the agriculture and food sectors.

However, I note with interest that the Committee on Climate Change’s Net Zero report from 2019 says:

“It is difficult to reduce agriculture emissions to near-zero given the inherent biological processes and chemical reactions arising from crops, soils and livestock.”

Therefore, I cannot reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, that net zero will be achieved by 2050, but we are doing everything we can to let it happen.

In its June 2020 report to Parliament on reducing emissions, the Committee on Climate Change provided recommendations for government departments, including Defra, on policy priorities to address net-zero climate mitigation and adaptation. We will consider this advice and provide a response before 15 October. I believe that the Bill addresses these targets in a very coherent way.

The Government recognise the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions made by the livestock and dairy sectors, while valuing the importance of our farmers in feeding the nation and managing our rural environment. Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by 16% since 1990, as I said, with many farms using more efficient agricultural practices. Land use, land use change and forestry continue to provide benefits in carbon sequestration.

The Government recognise the importance of reducing emissions further in these sectors. The clean growth strategy and the 25-year environment plan should reassure the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, since they set out a range of specific commitments further to reduce emissions from agriculture, including through environmental land management, by strengthening biosecurity and control of endemic diseases in livestock, and by encouraging the use of low-emission fertilisers. The Government welcome the National Farmers Union’s ambition on this—indeed, its target is to reduce emissions by 2040—and the fact that the industry is taking this strong lead. Climate change represents a significant challenge, but also opportunities. We work closely on this issue with the NFU and other leading stakeholders, including the greenhouse gas action plan partners.

Clause 1(1)(d) enables the Secretary of State to give financial assistance for the purpose of

“managing land, water or livestock in a way that mitigates or adapts to climate change”,

which provides coverage for the reduction and sequestration of carbon emissions. I believe that that statement is very clear. With particular reference to my noble friend Lord Caithness’s Amendment 73, I note that all agricultural or horticultural activities that contribute towards this purpose would already be in scope of funding support under Clause 1(1)(d). For example, financial assistance could be used to incentivise farmers to manage their livestock in a way that reduces their greenhouse gas emissions by adjusting animal feed practices, or to incentivise crop rotation. This provides a foundation for continued improvements, which the Government will drive forward through giving productivity grants alongside introducing the new environmental land management scheme. ELM will ensure that farmers and other land managers are rewarded for delivering environmental outcomes that benefit us all. This new scheme will aim to deliver a range of environmental benefits, including the mitigation of, and adaption to, climate change. Land management activities that could be funded under ELM to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon include tree planting and peatland restoration.

At present, UK forests capture about 4% of our greenhouse gas emissions. We need those trees and forests to grow to capture more carbon. Defra is taking necessary steps to deliver a step change from current planting rates. I hope that reassures the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. Having announced the Nature4Climate fund, the Government are now consulting on a new England tree strategy. We invite input to shape our proposals to plant more trees, protect those we have and support the economy. I will certainly take on board the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Clark of Windermere, which the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, endorsed, regarding licences for the destruction of trees.

On Amendment 144A from the noble Earl, Lord Devon, the sooner the Government introduce these new schemes, the better for the environment. Reducing direct payments from 2021, as planned, will allow us to do so. Direct payments are untargeted and poor value for money, and deliver little for the environment. All ELMS will come into effect in 2024. Reductions to direct payments will free up money so that the Government can introduce pilots of the ELMS. It can also work to increase the number of farmers who are in new countryside stewardship scheme agreements.

The noble Lords, Lord Foulkes and Lord McConnell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, also mentioned financial assistance for the devolved authorities. While agriculture is, as they all know, a devolved matter, I would like to reassure them that we are working very closely with officials in all the devolved authorities to establish common frameworks on agriculture. With these explanations, I ask my noble friend Lord Caithness to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Faulkner of Worcester Lord Faulkner of Worcester Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, I have received requests to speak after the Minister from four noble Lords: the noble Baronesses, Lady Gardner of Parkes, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle and Lady Boycott, and the noble Earl, Lord Devon. I call first the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on her speech. which covered most of the points I wished to make. However, I want to emphasise the importance of Amendment 75. The Minister drew attention to the improvements that have already been made. The detailed categories are set out in this amendment, but I believe they would benefit all. Public health outcomes must be borne in mind all the time. Our present virus situation has made us all much more aware of the need for this protection of the public. Allying that with improvements in the agricultural world is good. I do not wish to take up more time because this has been a very interesting and complete debate, but I support Amendment 75.

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I note my noble friend’s comments. I think she probably meant to refer to Amendment 73, which is in this group. I thank her for her comments.

Photo of Lord Faulkner of Worcester Lord Faulkner of Worcester Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

I now call the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, will speak after the noble Earl, Lord Devon.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, and to note that she is reflecting the support that is to be found on all sides of your Lordships’ House for the inclusion of the climate emergency in the Bill. I thank the Minister for her responses thus far. She brandished the “we have legally binding targets” stick that the Government very much like to bring out. I point out that we also have a Fixed-term Parliaments Act which supposedly sets the date of elections every five years—and we have had three elections in the past five years.

What we need is action. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said, pointing to the report that has just come out from the independent Committee on Climate Change, we have not had, and do not have in mind, anything like the action that we need. The Minister quoted a 2019 report from the same committee pointing out the difficulties of making agriculture net-zero carbon. But the National Farmers’ Union, which is representative of many farmers in this country, particularly the larger ones, has set that target for itself. It is therefore surprising that the Government are lagging behind the farmers and are perhaps in conflict on yet another subject with what might traditionally have been seen as their natural constituency.

There are a number of amendments in this group, but it will not surprise your Lordships’ House to know that my favourite is Amendment 274, which was tabled by my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and is backed by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. This amendment goes furthest and says that we must ensure that we meet our legally binding target under Paris and that we need real action in six months’ time. I also commend the elements in Amendment 272 about working with the devolved Administrations. That is a very strong element that I hope the Government will also take forward.

When we were last in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, said that politics,

“is not the stuff of fundamental legislation but for the political hustings.”—[Official Report, 14/7/20; col. 1626.]

I am not sure whether the noble Lord would consider tackling the climate emergency—the existential threat that is facing us all—politics, but it is crucial to this Agriculture Bill and it has to be there.

I very much hope that we will hear in coming days and weeks a more conciliatory approach from the Government on this. They often talk about following the science; the science is that we need action. We have a special role as the chair of the—

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Can I ask the noble Baroness to wait a moment? I think it would be a courtesy to the Committee if the noble Baroness could keep remarks to a short intervention. She is speaking after the Minister and I think it would be polite if she were to ask the noble Baroness the Minister a question, rather than making a speech.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

I thank the noble Lord for his comment. I was coming to my last sentence, which is this: does the Minister acknowledge that there is support from all sides of your Lordships’ House for including a commitment to climate change action in the Bill? Will she and the Government at least go away and think again?

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 4:15 pm, 16th July 2020

I acknowledge the support from all sides of the House for all that we can do to encourage climate change mitigation, but I believe that that intention is already fully provided in Bill.

Photo of Baroness Boycott Baroness Boycott Crossbench

My Lords, I add my support for Amendment 272. I shall make a few points, while being mindful of what the Minister just said.

Healthy land is also healthy food. At the moment so much of our acreage is given over to growing grains that end up in very cheap, white, processed bread and the like. These fields are covered in chemicals. Any move that we can make in the right direction not only improves our biodiversity—agriculture is to blame for the 80% loss that has been suffered across the world—but is a win-win situation. I do not understand why the Government appear to be afraid of setting a target. We cannot make this target without agriculture being part of it; it is too big a part of our system.

Henry Dimbleby is producing a report for the Government, and I am very proud to say that I am an adviser on it. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, that an interim report is coming soon. If the Agriculture Bill does not set up sufficient pillars and legislation to change the way we farm, which can then change the way we eat, Henry Dimbleby’s terrific report will not have the impact that it needs.

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I agree with everything the noble Baroness has said about healthy land meaning healthy food. The Bill is designed to do all that we can to encourage farmers to produce healthy land. We do not have a sector-specific target for agriculture because the Committee on Climate Change advised that emissions reductions would be needed in all sectors. We know that to achieve net zero more is needed from this sector, and we are looking to reduce agricultural emissions controlled directly within the farm boundary with a broad range of cost-effective measures, primarily through improvements in on-farm efficiency and land use change.

Photo of The Earl of Devon The Earl of Devon Crossbench

My Lords, I am sorry to return to this point—I am being forced to become something of an environmental campaigner. I have a simple question which has not yet been answered. Are the Government satisfied that the agricultural transition will not slow or reverse our progress towards net zero in 2050?

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I can confirm that we are absolutely confident that we are doing everything in legislation and encouragement in order to achieve that end.

Photo of Lord Faulkner of Worcester Lord Faulkner of Worcester Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

After the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, I will call the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, who has requested to speak.

Photo of Lord Lilley Lord Lilley Conservative

I congratulate my noble friend on being the only person in this debate who has raised the question of whether the net-zero target for agriculture is feasible. Does she agree that probably the most realistic assessment of realistic steps to achieve net zero is the report Absolute Zero by the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Bath, Nottingham and Strathclyde, and Imperial College, which said that even a massive expansion of forestry will have only a small effect? It therefore concludes that to achieve zero emissions from agriculture would require,

“beef and lamb phased out by 2050 and replaced by greatly expanded demand for vegetarian food.”

I hope she will make it clear to the House that if we accept these amendments we are mandating the end of lamb and cattle farming in this country.

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

We are not accepting these amendments. I take my noble friend’s point. We should always have absolute zero as our goal because it will enable us to move as far towards that goal as possible.

Photo of Baroness Worthington Baroness Worthington Crossbench

I am grateful to be able to speak a second time. I echo the comments of the noble Earl, Lord Devon, and ask the Minister how she can be confident that we will not see backsliding and an increase in emissions, given that we will lose cross-compliance and we have no sectoral targets for this very important sector. If they were set, it would drive investment into the sector, since it is the sector that can help to offset emissions in other parts of the economy. I simply ask the Minister to reconsider. This would be a beneficial addition to this framework legislation, to prevent backsliding and drive investment.

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

As I have said already, from next year we will bring forward grants and new countryside stewardship and productivity schemes that will prevent the backsliding that we all want to prevent.

Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have participated in the debate and for the very helpful comments that have been made all around the Chamber. It was interesting to hear my noble friend Lord Marlesford’s statistics. I would only say to him that the whole pattern of rainfall is changing. Last winter, the rainfall in Caithness was significantly below average, whereas in parts of Hampshire it was about 170% or more above average—so the year’s average might equate, but the time and quantity of rain and drought that one is now getting have changed.

The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, was absolutely right to say that the amendments are of prime importance and something should be included in the Bill. Therefore, I was a little disappointed by what my noble friend said in her reply. I will read with care what she said, but I think that she missed two crucial points that I sought to make in justification of my amendment. Her examples were all of mitigation. I am not worried about mitigation: mitigation is to make less severe or alleviate, which is but one aspect of what we are talking about. Adaptation is to adjust or modify. That is another aspect. What the Bill does not cover satisfactorily, according to the legal advice that I have had, is the word “sequester”, which is a hugely important addition that needs to be made to the Bill at the next stage.

The other point that I sought to make in justification of my amendment was that it should be a condition of financial assistance that sequestration of climate change emissions is included in whatever ELM one is talking about. We desperately need to take more carbon out of the atmosphere, not just mitigate it. I hope that, between now and the next stage, the Minister will meet me to discuss this because, as the Bill stands, it does not meet the point that I have been trying to make. Meanwhile, I am reluctantly content to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 73 withdrawn.

Amendments 74 to 86 not moved.