Green recovery

September 30th 2020

Rupert Wailes-Fairbairn, Rural Divisional Director, considers some the steps farmers can take to help reduce the impact of climate change

Increasingly volatile weather patterns are a stark reminder of the accelerating pace of climate change.

As we plan for our post-pandemic recovery, the UN’s Climate Chief Patricia Espinosa has pointed to the opportunity that now exists for us to “shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, safe and more resilient”.

For those pacing the UK corridors of power, this means delivering net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – when the Met Office predicts heatwaves might be expected every other year.  This volatility will have an inevitable impact on crop production and so the onus is also on farmers to help cut their carbon footprint through more eco-friending practices.

The efficiencies of precision farming, for example, have the potential to significantly reduce emissions, either directly or indirectly, by reducing inputs, such as fuel, feed, nutrients and water.

Feed additives, such as seaweed, have been found capable of reducing methane from livestock, while controlled-release fertilisers can limit nitrous oxide emissions.

Further measures can include peatland restoration and land use changes to increase carbon capture, from tree planning and bigger hedgerows to the promotion of carbon-rich soils.

It remains difficult to accurately predict how climate change will impact the farming industry, but against a backdrop of increasing weather volatility, the drive to net zero must also dovetail with effective risk mitigation measures.

Crop Shortfall Insurance stands front and centre of the available solutions. Farmers can now protect themselves against production shortfalls with insurance that will automatically trigger pay-outs to farmers if extreme weather causes yields in their region to fall below the historic average.

Crop Shortfall Insurance protects up to a quarter of the policy holder’s cereals and oil seeds output.  Pay-outs will be triggered if there is more than a 10 per cent difference between the DEFRA regional yield data for the year, relative to the eight-year regional average. With peace of mind their income is protected, farmers have one less thing to worry about when unexpected weather events hit our shores.

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