Debates between Lord Clark of Windermere and Baroness Young of Old Scone during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 16th Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Lord Clark of Windermere and Baroness Young of Old Scone
Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 16th July 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 - Government Bill Page View all Agriculture Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (16 Jul 2020)
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I support Amendments 272 and 274 in the names of the two noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Jones, respectively—you can never have too many Lady Joneses, in my view.

These amendments would put an urgency and a framework into the objective of substantially reducing the carbon impact of farming, and would include a series of targets and interim targets in line with successive carbon budgets under the Climate Change Act. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said that the amendments were too declamatory and mandatory, and that is why I support them. We need a bit of backbone to make sure that this vital purpose is achieved.

Agriculture accounts for 11% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, and that percentage has not reduced very much over the last 10 years. Unless change can be incentivised financially, agriculture will account for a greater proportion of our UK emissions, as other sectors decarbonise quickly. On the other hand, land is an essential resource for tackling climate change through its ability to sequester and store carbon, and that needs to be taken into account at the same time.

I know that the Minister will say that the purposes in Clause 1 already enable support to be provided for measures to combat climate change. However, the amendments before us provide a much stronger framework to drive the urgent changes required in agricultural practice, and I urge him to consider the extra welly that they will provide for this vital purpose.

Lord Clark of Windermere Portrait Lord Clark of Windermere (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I very much associate myself with the thrust of these four amendments. They highlight something which is absolutely critical, and we can think of this as we go through Covid-19, because, although the pandemic is serious, it is not as serious as climate change.

Here, we have a set of amendments that sets modern agriculture in Britain within the context of our climate change challenge. It is a big challenge but one that we have to face and, in fact, win. I very much associate myself with the comments of my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone. In particular, I support Amendment 272 in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch, although I equally support the amendment in the name of the other noble Baroness, Lady Jones.

If we had to invent a machine to lead the campaign against carbon emissions, that would be quite difficult, but nature has provided us with just such a machine. It has provided us with trees. Trees absorb carbon as they grow and retain carbon as they mature: in their leaves, their trunk, their bark, their roots and their soil—it is all there. Although we do not have many woods and trees in this country, we all have ambitions to have more. To give one statistic, one young mixed wood captures 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare. It is a very efficient way of meeting our climate change target, and this Bill will help, because more trees will be planted.

I want to raise something with the Minister which I hope he or she will look at. We all talk about planting trees because they provide so many benefits—in this case, we are talking about climate change—but if you remove trees, you do exactly the opposite, with the saving grace that if you replant, you start the whole process again. There is a law in this country that says that before a tree of a certain size is felled, a licence must be obtained. However, I am afraid that that legislation is hardly ever applied. It is when it comes to large areas of trees, because, just as individuals might get grants to plant trees, they have to get permission to fell.