Agriculture and Food Supply: Climate Change

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 1st August 2022.

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Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Conservative, Chippenham

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what plans he has to (a) take steps to mitigate the impact of climate change on (i) agriculture and (ii) global food security and (b) revitalise the international trade of food in the context of the effect on global food production of (A) the international response to covid-19 and (B) global warming.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government is committed to take action to mitigate climate change and to adapt to its impact. We are introducing three schemes that reward environmental benefits: the Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery. Together, these schemes are intended to provide a powerful vehicle for achieving the goals of the 25 Year Environment Plan and our commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, while supporting our rural economy. Through them, farmers and other land managers may enter into agreements to be paid for delivering public goods including adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.

The Government has also published the Net Zero Strategy which sets the UK on a clear path to net zero by 2050 and set out key commitments such as ensuring 75% of farmers in England will be engaged in low carbon practices by 2030, rising to 85% by 2035. More recently in the Food Strategy we have set out the funding available for innovation in farming and agriculture.

The UK announced an Agriculture Breakthrough goal at COP26 - "to make climate-resilient, sustainable agriculture the most attractive and widely adopted option for farmers everywhere by 2030" - and the intention to build country support for this in 2022. This is part of the Breakthrough Agenda which was launched at the COP26 World Leaders Summit. The Breakthrough Agenda is a commitment from countries to work together internationally this decade to accelerate the development and deployment of the clean technologies needed to meet our Paris climate goals, ensuring they are affordable and accessible for all.

The UK provides funding to the CGIAR, the world's leading agricultural science and innovation organisation, which delivers cutting edge technology and evidence-based solutions to tackle global challenges in the food system, saving and improving millions of lives. CGIAR research is projected to deliver a reduction of 0.6 gigatonnes CO2e each year by 2030. CGIAR rice innovations alone have scope to reduce global emissions by 0.5% - equivalent to 40% of total UK emissions.

The Government has also announced specific measures to support farmers with rising input costs including changes to statutory guidance to the "Farming Rules for Water"; increased grants funding to boost R&D; and bringing the Basic Payment Scheme forward so that 50% of its payments are made this summer to improve cash flow for farmers.

The Food Standards Agency has provided guidance to Trading Standards Officers and businesses setting out how flexibility in enforcement of labelling rules may be applied to alleviate supply challenges and maintain supply of foods into retail. Feedback has been that industry welcomes these actions, and the main ask going forward is for us to carefully review the supply situation before reverting to a 'full compliance' model of enforcement.

Defra is taking a number of actions to maintain food security and reduce pressures on prices. The Government launched a package of measures to reduce the impact of cost of living concerns, including: nine new GMO authorisations to provide alternative sources for maize, removing tariffs on US maize, bringing forward BPS payments for farmers and delaying measures that would have imposed costs on businesses.

Furthermore, G7 Leaders have pledged to provide increased humanitarian assistance with priority recipients should include countries facing acute food insecurity (for example Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen), and countries facing potential food riots (such as Egypt).

The UK’s ambitious Free Trade Agreement programme diversifies sources of supply, contributes to our food security and resilience and supplements our strong domestic production.

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