Farmers must take action now to reach Net Zero by 2050

New research from HSBC UK has called on farmers to take action now in order to achieve Net Zero in the agriculture sector by 2050.

The report, UK Agriculture: Pathways to Net Zero which was undertaken by UCL and led by Dr Carole Dalin, examined the importance of reducing net agriculture emissions of greenhouse gases and how farmers can achieve this through changes to farm management.

It found that a long-term focus on sustainability matters is vital and farmers must gain a better understanding of their farm’s performance, including grennhouse gas (methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide) emissions and carbon capture accounting.

“Farmers need to be prepared to make tough investment decisions in the short-term,” said Martin Hanson, head of agriculture or HSBC UK Commercial Banking. “That will put them in the best position to drive growth sustainably in the future. A ‘wait and see’ approach puts them at risk of being left behind, as the wider food industry changes and higher standards are demanded.”

The findings called for a detailed investment plan to ensure farmers are to secure growth in the future whilst simultaneously reaching the government’s Net Zero goals, and explained that some of these changes will have an immediate impact on productivity as well as emissions, while others may take time to pay dividends on farm returns.

“It’s important that farmers look to invest in the measurement tools they need now so they can build a picture of what they need to do to achieve their sustainability goals in the future,” said Mr Hanson.

Suggested actions, according to the report, should include targeted measures to reduce emissions, capture carbon and the shifting of operations towards renewable energy and bioenergy, including:

  • Measures to improve productivity and efficiency – such as more efficient use of fertilisers, improved manure management to reduce nitrogen loss or improvements to livestock and arable production practices.
  • Appropriate planting of trees, protecting and restoring habitats and soil.
  • Generating and utilising renewable energy.
  • Growing appropriate bio-energy crops to increase crop diversity and income.
  • Developing future technology and becoming societal leaders on changes to diets and reduction of food loss and waste.

While the report recognised that farmers are making progress towards Net Zero, it explained that in order to achieve these ambitions there needs to be ‘a co-ordinated effort from the whole industry, government and financial institutions to make significant changes to the sector’.

Hanson added: “It’s also vital to remember that Net Zero should not be seen as an isolated objective. It is one of a number of key milestones along the pathway to making UK agriculture more resilient to environmental challenges now, and in the future.”

The full report can be found here: HSBC Centre Of Sustainable Finance.

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