The SFT wishes to acknowledge its gratitude to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the tireless work of the scientists that serve on its committees. We urge the UK Government and all countries, as well as all sectors of industry and society, to take the dire warnings in the latest analysis very seriously and to take action both individually and collectively, to begin the transition to a carbon-free economy as rapidly as possible. We believe the costs of doing this now will be very much lower than if there is any further delay.

In the area of food production, it is essential that we get the balance right between reducing agricultural emissions and rebuilding the degraded farmland soils in the UK and many parts of the world upon which food production depends. Almost 40% of UK arable soils are seriously degraded and these will become unfit to maintain productive yields in future without significant changes to production systems. In our view, this issue can be best addressed by re-introducing grass, forage legumes like clover, and grazing livestock into the cropping rotations on depleted cropland soils. This is why we have recently co-founded a new group, the Grazing Livestock Alliance, along with the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, Sustain and Plantlife, to advocate for the important role that grazing systems can play in tackling climate change.

It is, however, very important to prevent any further global increase in ruminant numbers, due to their methane emissions. We should therefore avoid importing beef from additional countries, especially since the average carbon footprint of beef globally is more than double that of beef produced in the UK. We must also greatly reduce the use of nitrogen fertiliser, which is a major source of nitrous oxide emissions. As such, we should scale back the use of grain and soya in livestock production and use the grazing animals we have to help us both mitigate and adapt to climate change by increasing soil organic matter and therefore transferring carbon from the atmosphere to the soil, which will make agriculture more resilient to climate extremes. This will also improve soil biodiversity and, through this, rebuild the invertebrate food chains that are essential for farmland biodiversity more generally.

If you would like more information about our position then please contact Megan Perry megan@sustainablefoodtrust.org.

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