Debates between Lord Krebs and Lord Inglewood during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 22nd Sep 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Inglewood
Report stage & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 View all Agriculture Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 130-IV Provisional Fourth marshalled list for Report - (21 Sep 2020)
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB) [V]
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My Lords, this amendment has been most ably introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. I want to briefly re-emphasise the reasons why I strongly support it. As the noble Baroness said, agriculture has to play its part in meeting our net-zero commitment. At the moment, as she also said, agriculture may account for only some 10% of UK emissions, but by 2050, if nothing is done about agriculture and other parts of our economy play their part, it could account for about a third.

In earlier debates, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, referred to an excellent new book by Professor Bridle entitled Food and Climate Change Without the Hot Air. Professor Bridle expresses the challenge by calculating that, at the moment, the average daily food-related greenhouse gas footprint for each of us in the UK is six tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalence. To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, we need to halve emissions by 2030. In other words, if food and agriculture are to play their part, the footprint of every one of us has to go down from six to three tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalence per day within 10 years.

We have already heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that the climate change committee has repeatedly reported that agriculture and land use are not making their required contribution to our greenhouse gas emissions reductions. This leaves an intolerable burden on other sectors, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has already said. I will share a different quote from the climate change committee’s 2020 report to Parliament:

“Agriculture and land use, land-use change and forestry … have … made little progress.”


It concludes that there has been no net change in emissions over 10 years, and no coherent policy framework to deliver change.

The noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, referred to peat bogs. Last Sunday’s Observer reported that there are currently no plans to stop burning peat bogs this autumn. Peat bogs are a major carbon store and burning them releases significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Surely, if the Government are serious about their green credentials and about reducing greenhouse gas emissions from land use and agriculture, they should ban this burning now.

Agriculture is not delivering the necessary greenhouse gas reductions. This Bill is the chance to change that and ensure that the right policies are put in place. The Climate Change Act is, in the argot of the day, an oven-ready framework within which to place both agricultural emissions reduction targets and climate adaptation to make our future agriculture resilient to climate change. That is why we need to support this amendment.

Lord Inglewood Portrait Lord Inglewood (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, in my capacity as chairman of the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and as a member of the Cumbria Leadership Board, I have recently been involved in debates about carbon in that county. One of the things that concerns me is the debate around emissions which, inevitably, is not quite as simple as one might expect at first blush.

It is clear, however, that any strategy has to begin with where we are now. It must also recognise that it is almost inevitable that those with some kind of an interest are inclined to engage in special pleading. In the case of agriculture, I know that farming contributes; I am a farmer, and I know that my farm does. However, farmers, including myself, have to react and deal with what may be the considerable and costly implications of the appropriate response. As has already been said by one of the Baroness Joneses, the first thing is to have agreed metrics, and then to use them impartially to map the journey into the future, based on the information they give us.

Business accounts are compiled with agreed metrics and standards to present a true picture of the underlying economic activity. The same must be true with carbon accounting. I fear I may sound like a cracked record but, once again, the economic implications and consequences of effecting change must not destroy the agricultural industry and other rural land uses. As the Financial Times pointed out last weekend, the economic future for much of the UK industries in these sectors looks pretty parlous.

In the case of rural land uses, a number of activities are natural carbon sinks and cleaners. Those responsible for the framework of the new world must give proper financial recognition for that. In many cases, what they are doing now is being done for nothing, both for the general benefit of the wider public and the financial advantage of the polluters. Were polluters to actually have to pay, it not only would be a major step towards reducing emissions elsewhere but would help underpin the rural economy, parts of which are pretty fragile and part of left-behind Britain. The short truth of the matter is that insolvent businesses cannot deliver a brave new world in rural Britain. Furthermore, if that happens, a great deal of what we have been considering over the past days and weeks will turn out to have been pure fantasy. It is as simple as that.