Please be assured that I recognise the importance of looking after our planet. I have been a green Conservative since before David Cameron made it fashionable and will always support nature. I am also a very strong supporter of regenerative agriculture and have spent a lot of time with the Nature Friendly Farming Network. The good news is that many of our farmers locally are adopting these practices as I have met them at the Groundswell Nature Friendly Farming Conference, which I attended myself.
As you will likely know, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that the world is warming faster than anticipated, the effects of which are being seen in every single region of our planet. Urgent action is undoubtedly needed to limit global warming and put nature on a path to recovery, and I am encouraged that the Government is already taking decisive action to this end, being the first G7 country to legislate to achieve net zero by 2050 and the fastest decarbonising G20 country.
However, the UK's efforts will not be sufficient alone. That is why the Government has been calling for global ambition and action to reduce emissions across all sectors, including in agriculture, forestry and other land use, which is collectively responsible for roughly 23 per cent of global emissions. Recognising the need to reform the way we grow and consume food in order to tackle climate change, the UK seized the opportunities of our G7 and COP26 Presidencies to drive international action and commitments to this end.
For instance, in June 2021, the G7 Leaders committed to work to accelerate an inclusive global transition to sustainable and climate resilient agriculture, and at COP26, over 140 world leaders joined the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use (GLD). This committed them to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation”, and was backed by a financial package of $19.2 billion.
Nevertheless, as demand for food increases, further action on land use and environmental degradation is urgently needed. To this end, the Prime Minister has announced £65 million for the Nature, People and Climate Programme at COP27, which supports indigenous and local forest communities. This funding will drive forward agricultural innovations and measures to boost sustainable livelihoods, as well as support work to conserve and restore millions of hectares of forest.
It is for the reasons outlined here that I do not believe it necessary to sign the Plant Based Treaty at this time. While this may be disappointing to you, I hope I have reassured you that the Government recognises the need to accelerate the shift towards sustainable food systems and considerable work is ongoing to this end.
Domestically, the Government advocates for a healthy and balanced diet based on the national food model the Eatwell Guide. The evidence is clear that our diets should include more fibre, fruit and vegetables. I am also aware that meat and dairy can both be an important part of a balanced diet. While the Government encourages people to eat sensibly, I believe it is for each individual to decide how much meat and dairy is in their diet.
The Government’s Food Strategy sets out the importance of maintaining and boosting our food security. It commits to broadly maintaining the current level of food that we produce domestically and boosting production in sectors where there are the biggest opportunities, such as horticulture and seafood. Through harnessing new technologies and innovation, we will grow and eat more of our own food, which will unlock jobs across the country, grow the economy, and help to reduce pressure on food prices.
The Government also launched a call for evidence to better understand the opportunities and challenges associated with the use of feed products that can reduce methane emissions from livestock. This will explore how Ministers can work with farmers and agri-businesses to increase adoption of technology to support more sustainable protein production. I look forward to reading the Government’s response to this call for evidence in due course.