This post is by Jonathan Baker, deputy director for programme policy, engagement and strategy in Defra’s future farming and countryside programme.
It’s the look of excitement that gets you. Working with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), I and other Defra officials are talking to civil servants around the world about how, in the run up to COP26, our reforms to agricultural policy in England represent a model for other nations to address the nature and climate crises.
Right now, the UK food system as a whole is bad for our health, bad for nature and the climate and, on top that, it is not even offering an economically sustainable livelihood for most farmers. The National Food Strategy, out today, sets out an integrated plan for how we can turn these problems around. Its insights on farming and land use are particularly exciting because they show how we can ‘have it all’: healthy food, as well as restored nature, carbon sinks and sustainable farm businesses.
Have you stopped eating meat for some meals or started a plant-based diet? If so, you are part of a growing trend. Two weeks ago, a leaked draft of the forthcoming National Food Strategy included the suggestion that a meat tax might be needed in the future to help it along, to cut UK carbon emissions and improve people’s health. Meat taxes have been proposed before, and were rejected by the prime minister. But other developments are already driving changes in our diets. One way or another we will be eating less meat in future and a new vision for an economically and environmentally sustainable livestock sector is needed.
This post is by Jenny Hawley, policy manager at Plantlife International.
Across the UK today, thousands of people will be raising awareness about the need to reduce air pollution. Most will be rightly and primarily motivated by the damage caused to our health, particularly children’s health. Yet tackling air quality can also help us to tackle the nature and climate crisis, and lead to a more sustainable food and farming system.
Green Alliance is tracking the UK’s net zero policy progress in key areas of government throughout this year. This week we are featuring a series of daily blogs in which we hear from the chairs of five parliamentary select committees, who answer our questions about the progress being made in their committee’s area of interest. This post is by Neil Parish MP, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
In 2018 I carried out a series of interviews with family farms in the North York Moors. I was researching what impact the twin changes of leaving the EU and transitioning to a ‘public money for public goods’ subsidy system could have on their lives. Those I visited welcomed me with open arms and, although many had struggled in recent times, they were keen to make the new system work. And we need this system to work. A new RSPB report reveals a “lost decade” for British wildlife. Restorative land use takes time, so we really don’t have many more opportunities to get it right.
This post is by Tom Lancaster, head of land, seas and climate at the RSPB. A version of this post has also been published on Wildlife and Countryside Link’s blog.
For the organisations involved in Greener UK and Wildlife and Countryside Link, the new Agriculture Bill, announced this week, is one of the most important pieces of legislation for years. Read more
This post is by Miles King of People Need Nature.
The current tax system operates against the sort of public benefit that the new agricultural policy established by Michael Gove is seeking to create. English landowners receive £2.4 billion a year in tax breaks for which there is little or no benefit to society. This amount of money is almost exactly the same as landowners receive in farm subsidies and it exposes a contradiction: although the system of providing payments to farmers is being fundamentally reformed, the tax breaks received will be untouched. Read more
This post is by Georgina Mace, professor of biodiversity and ecosystems at University College London.
The recent UN IPBES Global Assessment on biodiversity and ecosystems exposed the dramatic decline of nature. Seventy five per cent of the land surface has been significantly altered, and among assessed groups of mammals and birds, one in four species are at risk of extinction. The average abundance of native species in most major terrestrial biomes has fallen by at least 20 per cent and land degradation has reduced productivity in 23 per cent of the global terrestrial area.
This crisis not only threatens the diversity of life on Earth. Ongoing degradation and changes to ecosystems pose further risks to people through threats to food, energy and water security, as well as being a significant driver of climate change. Read more
This post has been jointly written by Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, and Shaun Spiers, executive director of Green Alliance and chair of Greener UK. A letter based on this piece appeared in The Sunday Times.
For better or worse, over the last forty five years the EU has played an unarguably important role in the way we manage our landscape, firstly through the Common Agricultural Policy and latterly through the Single Market’s role in environmental regulation. Now, as we prepare to leave, questions about how we continue to manage our countryside are stimulating an important, and sometimes controversial, debate.