View Full Version : Climate change could boost farmers, says Miliband

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007, 03:09 PM
Climate change could boost farmers, says Miliband

Paul Owen and agencies
Wednesday January 3, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Climate change could prove an opportunity for British farmers, the environment secretary said today.
But David Miliband emphasised that the principle of "the polluter pays" would be applied to farming as to other industries.

The market for biofuels would grow "substantially" as demand for renewable fuel increased, Mr Miliband told the Oxford Farming Conference, meaning that climate change was "an opportunity, not just a threat".

Global warming "creates problems, but it will also create new markets and new opportunities," he said.

"That doesn't mean it is a good thing; it does mean we need to make the most of it."

But Mr Miliband said that polluters in agriculture should be penalised for their environmental impact.

"That means greenhouse gases generated in producing food or in food miles carrying a price need to be recognised in the same way as greenhouse gases generated in other industries," he said.

"We will look closely at how incentives within the food, energy and land markets can reflect environmental impact more closely."

But if UK farming prepared for this future, it could become a leader in "green farming, developing solutions that reduce the use of natural resources and reduce pollution".

As the Guardian revealed today, Mr Miliband told the conference that methane emissions from flatulent animals could be reduced by feeding cattle different food, breeding them to live longer, altering the handling of manure and getting farms to generate "biogas" or "biofertiliser" from animal waste.

Agriculture now contributes 7% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions, and more than a third of all emissions of methane, one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases.

Mr Miliband pointed out today that "the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions than transport".

The environment secretary also said that the farming industry had to "differentiate" its produce, "reconnect" with consumers, and diversify into new sectors such as energy, water and carbon.

The Tory leader, David Cameron, echoed Mr Miliband's view of climate change as a potential opportunity for agriculture.

Mr Cameron told BBC News 24: "Farmers shouldn't see the environment as just costs and regulations." It could also be an opportunity to explore new markets, he said.

And in a speech to the farming conference promoting "food patriotism" - British people eating British food - Mr Cameron suggested that farmers could combat climate change by exploiting markets in fuel-crop growing, producing wool for home insulation, turning hemp into breeze blocks, and coppicing willow to provide fuel for local boilers.

"We shouldn't get carried away," Mr Cameron said. "So far it's been tough to make profits in these markets. And, as sceptics point out, not every farmer can go down this path and, even if they did, we wouldn't solve all our environmental or security problems."

But he promised that a future Conservative government would "do all that it could to remove the obstacles to their development, including looking at the incentives provided by the tax system".

A project funded by Mr Miliband's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs intended to inform farmers and landowners about the "challenges and opportunities" posed by global warming was also launched at the farming conference today.

The scheme, called Communicating Climate Change to Farmers, brings together Forum for the Future, the environmental charity, the National Farmers' Union, the Country Land and Business Association and the Applied Research Forum, an agricultural research organisation and lobbying group.

Peter Kendall, the president of the NFU, told the BBC: "What I need to know, as a working farmer in Bedfordshire, is how I use my inorganic fertilisers, how I can prevent nitrous oxide getting into the air, how to stop run-off and how I can keep water clean in the context of climate change."

Source (http://politics.guardian.co.uk/green/story/0,,1982030,00.html)