Amendment 100

Part of Agriculture Bill - Report (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 22nd September 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 10:15 pm, 22nd September 2020

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their support this evening. As the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Bakewell, and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, said, there are a lot of good words and good intentions on climate change but no “logical trajectory”, as the noble Baroness put it. There is a desperate need for more measurement and metrics. It has been an ongoing criticism from the Natural Capital Committee that we are just not very good at having baseline measurements and measuring progress. That issue has run through this debate.

The noble Lords, Lord Randall and Lord Inglewood, rightly said that farmers understood the problems and wanted to help. A number of noble Lords welcomed the NFU’s commitment and ambition for a 2040 target. The good will is there, but support and help need to be provided to make it happen. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, identified famers’ concerns about the economic consequences if they are not given the help to make that transition. There are, of course, economic consequences, which is why it is important that we harness schemes such as the ELMS to help farmers make the transition and enable them to play their part. That point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh.

Several noble Lords also recognised that there are opportunities for rewarding the benefits from carbon sinks. The economic impact of this does not have to be just negative. Planting trees, and all the other regreening we are able to do, could have a positive one for the farming community. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that there is a cost to inaction as well. If we do not tackle the negative impact of climate change—extreme weather and so on—that also affects the economies of farming communities. They suffer as well when these extreme events take place. We have no option but to take action on this; the question is how we go forward on it.

A number of noble Lords mentioned the burning of peat bogs. We are all slightly concerned about this. The Minister did not mention it in his response, but it would be helpful to know when the Government are going to introduce a ban on it, which would be a very simple first step.

I welcome the Minister’s offer to work together. I also welcome his understanding of the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in. There is a bit of a contradiction about the term “sector-specific”. The Minister’s initial response was, “We don’t want anything too sector-specific because we need to look across all departments to see what different roles they can play”, but then he referred to other departments working on very specific things. In all honesty, other government departments are moving ahead quicker than Defra and we are getting left behind. That is my real concern.

He mentioned a number of activities taking place within Defra, but the external independent bodies that measure our progress—the Committee on Climate Change is just one—are sounding alarm bells, saying that progress is neither fast enough nor deep enough. Whatever the Government are doing is simply not enough. This is not just me making a political point; it is a more general concern from the experts outside.

We come back to the need for proper metrics and measurement, which is key. The Minister talked about the devolved nations. Our amendment refers to the need to consult them. It is important that we involve them in tackling this issue. I hope, as I am sure he does, that we will work together to reach our own solutions.

There is a lot of good will here. I am very grateful for the tone that the Minister has set, and for his open door going forward. We may well be pushing at it. I hope he understands that, in the meantime, I still feel that it is important to put these issues in the Bill. I would welcome the opportunity to talk but, in the meantime, we would feel more content if the legal responsibilities that he talked about were in the Bill. Therefore, I beg leave to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 249, Noes 200.