Amendment 236A

Part of Agriculture Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 23rd July 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Worthington Baroness Worthington Labour 9:00 pm, 23rd July 2020

My Lords, I am conscious that we are into our sixth session of debate on this Bill. I do not wish to detain the House unnecessarily, so I will be very brief. I am also very conscious that the remaining amendments in this group pertain to the marketing standards in organic products, while my amendment relates to the climate change impacts of agriculture. We had a very good debate last week when we looked at a group of amendments focused on climate change, and I certainly felt that there was strong cross- party support for a strengthening of the references to climate change in the Bill.

Agriculture makes up a significant proportion of the UK’s greenhouse gases, and I am sad to say that over the last 30 years that contribution to our greenhouse gas emissions has remained relatively unchanged. In 1990 agriculture was responsible for 58.9 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, and in 2017, the latest figures, the figure was 45.6 million tonnes. That accounts for 10% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The two most prominent gases for which UK agriculture is responsible are nitrous oxide and methane. Some 70% of the UK’s nitrous oxide emissions and 50% of our methane emissions arise from agricultural practices. These are both powerful gases in the short term, and we have seen very little change in the contribution that we have been making to the global climate risk from these sources.

My amendment would require the Government to start to consult on the introduction of a comprehensive policy to address these climate change causing emissions from agriculture. As I tried to convey last week, this should be seen as an opportunity for the sector. By implementing a very low-level carbon price in the sector, the Government would be able to implement a polluter pays principle, but, more importantly, through the gathering of revenues from those sources of pollution they would then be able to make payments, grants and rewards to farmers who took actions to reduce their emissions.

I believe that there is an interest in the Government in extending the use of carbon pricing, since it has had such a beneficial and successful effect in other parts of the economy. We have used a succession of different ways of carbon pricing in the power sector to unleash huge sums of investment into novel solutions. I have no doubt that the ingenuity of our farmers and land managers would be unleashed if we implemented a similar system of levying a small charge and then rewarding innovation in the sector.

The time is late and I will be brief. The consultation that we would require the Government to undertake would also look at the protection of UK practices by levying a similar carbon price on equivalent imported products. I am very grateful for being given this opportunity to speak again about the important subject of climate change. Agriculture, as we have debated previously—