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2.10.14 How do we adapt moving forward?

2nd Oct 2014

So following on from the blog at the beginning of the week about communicating climate change and some of the issues surrounding attitudes, this is “part 2” for the end of the week about what this means going forward.

The research from Wiles in 2012 came up with some recommendations for policy makers following on from their discoveries surrounding farmers understanding and interest in climate change and reducing GHG emissions. These included

1.To develop clear and simple information and guidance on climate change and on the mitigating actions that may be taken by farmers. The guidance should be developed through further research and better understanding of farmer perceptions of climate change and the actions needed to mitigate emissions.

2.Encourage positive action and a clear message through the media and other communication pathways.

3.Use financial incentives to encourage practice change

This will all help to achieve the “vision of success” that the UK Government has come up with where agriculture is “efficient, competitive and climate friendly. Very little biomass is landfilled, emissions are tightly controlled and material formerly landfilled is used for renewable energy, compost and fertiliser.”

Scottish data

Research from Scotland is coming up with the same sort of messages. Their research into effective communication messages concludes that “invoking both the profit and stewardship motives” in farmers, would be likely to encourage a balance of business and environmentally oriented behaviours.

What now?

So how do we move forward? Do we need to regulate reducing emissions in order to get everyone engaged? Or do we target grant schemes to those farmers who are engaging with the agenda? Do we install a “carbon compliance” along with cross compliance requirements? There are various options available to those who are making the decisions.

Regulation – placing restrictions on what farmers are legally allowed to do and prohibit undesirable management practices. This works best in situations where the target group is already, or can quickly be persuaded that regulated actions fall below an acceptable, reference level of responsible farming practice.

Economic incentives – taxes and subsidies are the most widely used and analysed methods

Market led and voluntary approaches – promoting environmentally beneficial management practices to encourage higher standards of environmental behaviour among farmers. These have significant potential to encourage high standards of management practices on-farms and are attractive because they offer win-win options to motivated producers, but are unlikely to be sufficient to drive enhanced management of the countryside as a whole.

Education / information provision – raising awareness of environmental issues, including what can be done to address then and why this could be beneficial to farmers.

Opportunities for retailers to help drive up standards?

All major UK supermarkets are currently promoting low carbon products and encouraging producers to calculate the GHG emissions of their products.

Is this an opportunity for retailers to promote emissions reduction methods for producers and include them in their reduction target plans?

What do we do as an industry?

So which of the options do we take? Do we use the stick first and regulate practices that are damaging in terms of emissions? Or do we use the next round of grant funding that will be coming out over the next few months and prioritise those applications which are reducing emissions and sequestering soil carbon? Or do we remain as it is now that if farmers are interested and adapt voluntarily then they will achieve the business benefits, or do we just raise the education level?

One thing is for sure, is that it’s not going to disappear? So what do you think is the best way to make British Agriculture more sustainable and reduce its emissions? Why not let us know now?