Farmers can become net-zero heroes with the right policies in place to help and reward them, claim industry leaders.
A webinar, organised by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, was held to discuss the role of agriculture in the drive to reach net-zero.
Organised to coincide with Countryside COP week – held to showcase the contribution of the rural economy to meeting climate targets ahead of next month’s COP26 climate change summit – the webinar featured a range of speakers including Fife farmer Johnnie Balfour from Balbirnie Home Farms, based near Freuchie.
Mr Balfour, who is a member of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said there was a drive to make Balbirnie a more nature-friendly farming business.
“We think our place in nature is so important and we try to use the principles of regenerative agriculture by reducing our tillage,” said Mr Balfour.
“We are looking to eliminate all synthetic inputs over time and we are also trying to increase diversity. For us nature-friendly farming is business-friendly farming.”
He said farmers needed to be given the tools to learn how to farm in a way which benefits the environment and financially rewards them for their endeavours.
“I’d like for farmers to be given the right tools that will allow them to learn about the right ways in which they can do things and at the moment that’s not really there,” said Mr Balfour.
“I’d also like proper rewards for doing the right things so not only are farmers getting the tools to learn about what’s out there but also being paid to plant hedges, to introduce agroforestry schemes, or whatever is it the management of that particular land needs.”
He advised farmers looking to reduce their climate impact to start by making small changes such as reducing their tillage, or letting grazing ground rest for longer.
Cambridgeshire farmer Tom Clarke, who is chairman of the NFU’s net-zero steering group, said the farming sector had been put in a “too hard to fix box” with regards tackling emissions and climate change.
He said: “Often we are painted as the culprit [of climate change] and for a lot of farmers as the victims of climate change.
“Farmers have a lot of interests tied up in climate change and often the discussions to be green on a farm are the same discussions you would have to make your business better as well.”
He said the NFU and other farming organisations were pushing government to incentivise more radical ways of addressing the sector’s contributions to climate change.
Mr Clarke added: “We have to get better at realising that there’s an element of what works for us is better for climate change.”