Duty to report on international obligations

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 15th November 2018.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:45 pm, 15th November 2018

I thank the Minister for giving us a long list by way of explanation. This was more of a probing amendment, but we want to put it on the record that one of the difficulties with legislation is the degree to which it needs to be bound into other legislation. I think that this proposal is probably more appropriate for the environment Bill, but again, we need to put it on the record that the Government should be saying how they will meet their international obligations, not only through reports, but through the way in which they meet those obligations, which can then be manifest in the reports.

Sadly, the IPCC stated categorically—and I was there when Lord Deben, who was John Gummer, told me and a very big audience—that agriculture emissions were flatlining. Something somewhere is going wrong. International obligations are not being met; there should be a decrease. As it is, the only sector where there has been a significant decrease in the use of carbon is energy. Manufacturing, agriculture and the service economy are all flatlining. They are not reducing their dependence on carbon.

It is disappointing that we must bring the matter up, but bring it up we do. I shall accept what the Minister says at this stage, but I hope that he will listen to us and that when the environment Bill comes along there will be a clause on agriculture. In the 25-year environment plan there are quite a number of references to agriculture, as is right and proper, given that it is the most important user of the landscape. We want joined-up thinking and joined-up action.

We also want to know that the Government are dealing with areas in which, so far, they do not have a good record—I mean not just the present Government but predecessor Governments. They have simply failed on emissions standards. The Climate Change Act was only passed in 2008, so that is an easy cop-out for the previous Labour Government, but the reality is that we have not met our international obligations on agricultural emissions. I hope that the Government will do something more—they have to.

From talking to various people in Northern Ireland, I gather there is a huge problem with methane there, partly because of the growth of factory farming. That may or may not be acceptable—certainly to me it is not, but to some people it is. The downside is that methane emissions are growing rapidly. The Republic admits that it has a problem, although less than the north. We must recognise that change in agricultural systems is not always good; there can be a downside for the environment.

I shall not press new clause 8 to a vote, Members will be pleased to hear, but I hope that the Government will consider what has been said in this mini-debate, and think about how to make sure there is a strong component in the forthcoming Bill to reflect the role of agriculture. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.