Every sector – including agriculture – has a part to play in tackling global warming

by Charlotte Priddy, FUW Policy Officer

THE FUW recognises the imperative importance of climate change and recognises that each and every sector ‐ including agriculture ‐ has a part to play in tackling global warming. However, we were alarmed to read the latest recommendations put forward to Welsh Government for reducing Wales’ emissions between now and 2 0 5 0 by the Climate Change Committee.

The Climate Change Committee has recently produced two reports, as required under the Environment (Wales) Act 2 0 1 6 , to provide ministers with advice on Wales’ climate targets between now and 2 0 5 0 and to assess its progress on reducing emissions to date. The latest adviceisdetailedintworeports;theAdviceReport:ThepathtoaNetZeroWalesandthe Progress Report: reducing emissions in Wales.

The FUW has major reservations about the “land transformation” proposals set out in the report. This transformation seeks to plant 4 3 ,0 0 0 hectares of mixed woodland by 2 0 3 0 and a total of 1 8 0 ,0 0 0 hectares by 2 0 5 0 . There are a number of unintended negative outcomes associated with woodland creation such as impacts to biodiversity, water quality and increased water run‐off, and thus every care should be given to fully understand the impacts. Plus, a mixture of native woodland and forestry should be planted in such a way that does not undermine livelihoods, culture, businesses or food production.

To put the proposals into context, the CCC report calls for land use change in Wales ‐ adding 1 8 0 ,0 0 0 hectares of trees, leaving 2 7 ,0 0 0 hectares of open ground unplanted to promote biodiversity and 5 6 ,0 0 0 hectares of agricultural land shifting to bioenergy production (including short rotation forestry) by 2 0 5 0 . Measures like this would reduce the current 1 ,5 0 2 ,0 0 0 hectares of agricultural land (not including agricultural woodland) by 2 6 3 ,0 0 0 hectares, a reduction of 1 7 .5 %. Indeed when looking at the CCC’s Sixth Carbon Budget UK Report, it highlights a planting rate of 0 .1 6 % for the UK compared to 0 .3 % for Wales. It is also worth noting that the GVA (Gross Value Added) of agriculture in Wales is £3 5 5 m, compared with

£2 2 m from forestry and logging therefore a shift in this direction could result in major financial implications.

In addition The CCC suggests that “Th e Welsh Government sh ou ld implement low‐cost, low‐ reg ret actions to encou rag e ash ift away from meat and d airy”, despite the work of the FUW and industry representatives in promoting the incredible health benefits of eating red meat and dairy products. Dairy products provide an important source of protein and calcium and contain essential vitamins and minerals, and the benefits of red meat, such as the provision of protein for building muscle and bone and as a source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are essential for factors such as nerves, blood cells and the immune system, all of which are needed for a balanced diet.

The CCC reports do not take into consideration the fact that Wales is uniquely placed to produce lamb and beef in some of the most sustainable ways in the world. As outlined in The Welsh Way report by HCC, red meat farmed responsibly in Wales can have minimal impact on global warming and can act as a carbon sink through careful land management. This must not be about off‐shoring food production to other countries and will require a focus on a range of measures in the key areas of improving farming’s productive efficiency, enabling the industry to produce the same quantity of food or more with fewer inputs in innovative ways.

The reports argue that that “emissions from ag ricu ltu re and aviationd o not reach zero emissions and need to be offset by removals from th e forestry carbonsink ‐ wh ich g rows stead ily over time with tree planting ‐ and g reenh ou se g as removals, wh ich are d eployed at scale starting inth e 2020s.” Although the FUW agrees that there needs to be efforts made across all sectors, simply sacrificing Wales as a carbon store to allow other sectors to thrive would be catastrophic to Wales economy and culture.

Picking just one example of business flights ‐ about 1 6 % of all travel in the UK is for business purposes ‐ and figure 1 shows the industries in which business passengers are employed. The CCCreportsuggeststhatPlanekmperpersonwillrisefrom11,000 in2025 to13,700 in2050 and it is very unlikely that this increase will be down to the farmers in Wales.

Fig u re 1. Ind u stries th at bu siness passeng ers work in.

Agriculture in Wales is the cornerstone of the Welsh Economy with over 8 0 % of land in Wales being farmed and employing some 5 2 ,9 0 0 people. Census figures suggest 4 3 % of agricultural workers speak Welsh, compared with 1 9 % of Wales’ population. In a nutshell, the FUW believes that the advice provided by the CCC is incredibly short sighted and does not take into account the bigger picture.

Like every other industry, farmers in Wales have a responsibility to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint and mitigate climate change. If farmers are supported and listened to appropriately within the farming system, a thriving agricultural industry with people who understand the principles of land management can achieve positive outcomes for climate change.

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