Climate change has major consequences for UK farmers and land managers argues the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) in its Briefing Paper released to coincide with the UN climate change conference – COP26.

Showcasing innovative solutions, the briefing paper “Farm of the Future: Journey to Net Zero”; is intended for policymakers and key stakeholders. The paper addresses key policy issues, including: sound economic valuation of natural capital, a consistent cross-sectoral food, energy and carbon transition policy, the introduction of standardised farm-level emissions accounting, and the adoption of environmental and carbon impact labelling on food to help inform consumer choice.

Released ahead of a fuller report, to be published in early 2022, RASE examines the need for urgent decarbonisation of the land-based industries. Farming, which occupies 75% of the UK landmass, has a vital role to play in the transition of our rural and bio-resource economies. The paper highlights the emissions reduction options available to farmers and land managers.

These include improved environmental resource management, low carbon and renewable energy options, low emission farm vehicles and fuels, digital technology and robotics.

Better valuation of nature and natural capital is vital in meeting the UK’s decarbonisation and food security goals, as well as to restoring soil health, increasing biodiversity and managing land and water resources.

Richard Gueterbock, a former RASE Trustee, who sits on the editorial board explains: “Policy on tackling the climate emergency must embrace the role farmers can play in mitigating emissions and delivering public benefits, while supplying the nation with quality food. Farmers need better guidance on how they can reduce their climate impact, invest in natural capital and supply clean energy to the food supply chain”.

Other recommendations include improved access at farm level to independent, cost-effective decarbonisation advice, including establishment of a farm innovation and demonstrator network, and support for more local action groups to improve soil and water resource management in rural areas.

Philip Gready, chairman of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, states that “The role of agriculture in decarbonisation is much wider than energy transition.  Farms can take practical action to build and sequester carbon in soils; improve biodiversity; embrace ‘smart’ technologies; and improve resource use and value of bio-resources. By working with supply chain partners including feed suppliers, food processors, supermarkets and consumer groups, farmers can play a leading role in reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

The main “Farm of the Future” report in Spring 2022 will help to inform farmers about future priorities and the technologies in place now and likely to emerge  over the next decade. This ‘Journey to Net Zero’ briefing paper focuses on how better policy can enable farmers to build a healthier, more resilient and nature-friendly food supply system in the UK.

A copy of the pre-COP26 briefing paper can be accessed here.