Farming must be recognised as central to helping tackle climate change, says the Farmers’ Union of Wales, highlighting the danger that misguided attacks on the industry over climate change could lead to knee-jerk reaction policies that add to environmental problems and increase carbon emissions.
Livestock farmers in particular have recently faced a barrage of criticism relating to climate change, with some reports giving the impression that agriculture is amongst the worst of contributors to climate change.
“The contribution of farming to Welsh greenhouse gas emissions is in fact a third of that of our energy sector, less than half of that of our heavier industries, and is well below that of transport,” said FUW Land Use Committee Chairman Tudur Parry.
“The carbon footprint of farming is around sixty-five times lower per hectare than all other sources of Welsh greenhouse gasses, and the official figures for agriculture do not include the carbon we capture annually in our soils, woodlands and hedgerows, or save through the thousands of turbines and solar panels on farms across Wales,”
Mr Parry said that, like all industries, farming has a responsibility to work harder to reduce emissions and tackle climate change, and the extinction rebellion protests in London reflect very valid worries about the impact of not recognising the seriousness of the situation.
“However, those who want to use our industry as a scapegoat, or climate change as a vehicle for anti-farming agendas risk making matters worse by undermining Welsh producers and merely shifting food production to countries which have higher emissions and far lower environmental standards.”
Mr Parry also highlighted the risk that misguided pressures on agriculture could further accelerate the loss of key species which rely on farming.
“Environmentalists are finally acknowledging that rules which have reduced farming activity on important habitats have been a major factor in the loss of species such as curlews and lapwings.
“But, there is now a real danger that policies based on misapprehensions about the role of livestock farming in climate change or knee-jerk reactions by policy makers could lead to further reductions in livestock grazing, thereby accelerating species loss, as well as causing damage to rural economies.”
Mr Parry said that the next steps in relation to the Welsh Government’s plans for post-Brexit rural and agricultural policies would be critical in terms of tackling climate change and habitat loss while also protecting rural incomes.
“Without a policy which ensures farming communities are economically and environmentally sustainable, Welsh food production and the Welsh economy will be devastated, and our ability to rise to the challenge our generation faces in terms of tackling climate change will be severely undermined.”