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UK carbon plan will provide agricultural incentives.

- Thursday, July 23, 2009

The UK Government has released its Low Carbon Transition Plan, spelling out how it will achieve future greenhouse emission reductions. In the Chapter on agriculture, the UK Government notes that there are limits to the emission reduction that can be achieved in complex biloogical systems such as agriculture, and also the need to balance a desire to reduce agriculture-sector emissions against a future need to produce food for a growing world population.

In the chapter on agriculture, a few relevant points are made, such as the following:

• There are physical limits to how far emissions can be reduced. Farming involves complex natural cycles such as the gases produced by livestock reared for meat, dairy or wool.

• The world population will rise to more than nine billion by 2050 according to the United Nations. The UK must play its role in ensuring safe, affordable food supplies, balanced by the need for the sector to adapt to the impacts of climate change and safeguard environmental resources such as biodiversity and water quality.

• Agricultural products are traded internationally. So in reducing emissions in the UK we need to make sure that we do not simply transfer the problem to other countries.

• Compared to other sectors, there are much larger scientific uncertainties in estimating agricultural emissions and predicting the effects of changing practices. For example, the amount of nitrous oxide released from spreading fertiliser can depend on the soil type, the weather conditions, when and how the spreading was done, and many other factors.

The UK approach (and the US approach detailed elsewhere) contrast starkly with some of the proposals being discussed for agriculture in Australia and New Zealand. (Thanks to Richard Eckard and Charles McElhone for passing on the information)

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