Good article highlighting the parlous state of England’s watchdog for our beleaguered wildlife:
Good article highlighting the parlous state of England’s watchdog for our beleaguered wildlife:
[Extract from a lightly longer article; go to above link for full version].
The UK has failed to make any cuts to emissions from agriculture. Again.
New government statistics released 22 August show UK farming emitted 49.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015, the exact same amount as a year before and remaining at about the same level since 2008.Overall, agriculture accounted for about 10 percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas
While the sector only contributed one percent of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, it was responsible for 53 percent of the UK’s methane emissions. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and – pound for pound – can trap much more heat in the atmosphere over the course of a couple of decades.
Agricultural emissions come from a variety of sources. The production of animal feed is the main driver, while generating power to keep the industry going also creates a lot of emissions. Livestock such as cows, sheep and pigs also emit a lot of methane.
A recent study suggested converting land for farming has led to the release of 133 billion tons of carbon dioxide globally over the last 12,000 years. That’s the equivalent of 13 years of global emissions from all sectors at their current levels, the Washington Post pointed out.
Since 2008, the UK has failed to cut its agricultural emissions, with reductions stalling at about 17 percent below 1990 levels. There is no specific climate target for the agriculture sector, instead the industry is captured under the UK Climate Change Act’s general 80 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, from 1990 levels, by 2050. continues…
Two items of current focus in Brexit news this week have been environmental standards and trade talks.
Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox, appear to have differing goals where these two suggested policies meet.
Post-Brexit, Gove is talking of a ‘gold standard’ for the environment and for farming in the UK, whilst Fox has been in America getting-up close and cosy discussing a possible post-Brexit trade deal, which would very likely have to include meat US, produced to both lower husbandry and processing standards, being imported into this country. Read here, industrial-scale animal production with far fewer animals enjoying life outside grazing on grass (at least during the summers) and gobbling-up vast amounts of cereal and soya. Widespread use of growth hormones, antibiotics in feeds and lower cleanliness in poultry slaughter relying on a final clean-up with heavily-chlorinated water. The emphasis here should be about how the meat is produced not about whether the meat id healthy to eat or not.
The UK can’t have post-Brexit both Gove’s ‘gold standard’ environmental standards and Fox’s imported meat produced by cheaper, lower welfare standards. This ‘cheapness’ – with animals paying the difference with their lower standards of well-being, would make both the profitability of UK farmers even harder to achieve and it would also allow meat produced by these morally lower methods into the UK’s food chain.
Unusual, rousing speech at end of tonight’s Prom concert by conductor Daniel Barenboim in the Royal Albert Hall with the Berlin Staatskepella orchestra, about international isolationism, education, music, Europe and rounding it of with a rousing performance of Land of Hope and Glory. Watch last 15 minutes of the concert on BBC iPlayer!
UPDATE BBC have edited/blacked-out speech! So listen to some of it at https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://youtu.be/PmBDKk6YlF0&ved=0ahUKEwjLsLOA7Y7VAhVBYlAKHTlmAPsQhlQI9wEwHA&usg=AFQjCNEPKEHli664mh8pKFHtoXPYdGzKYg
July 7 2017. The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, (CIWEM).
Green Groups and MPs are calling For an Amendment To the Repeal Bill.
Thirteen major environmental charities in the Greener UK coalition have begun working with a cross-party group of MPs to ensure the Repeal Bill does not “dilute” the force of environmental law in the UK
The MPs that back the amendment so far include Ed Miliband, former Labour Party leader and secretary of state for energy and climate change, and Caroline Lucas, Green Party co-leader.
The government has said that existing UK mechanisms, primarily judicial review and the role of parliament, are enough to replace all the functions currently carried out by EU agencies and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). But these UK mechanisms do not compare to current EU arrangements, the groups say.
Currently, EU agencies play important roles in monitoring the state of the environment, checking governments comply with environmental law and, where necessary, enforcing the law by initiating investigations into possible breaches, including in response to complaints from citizens and civil society organisations. If breaches of the law are identified, remedies and sanctions can be applied, including fines.
Shaun Spiers, chair of Greener UK and executive director at Green Alliance, said: “No one voted for dirtier beaches or worse air quality. The government has promised to bring all environmental protections into domestic law, but laws are only effective when there are strong institutions to enforce them.
“The ultimate risk of fines imposed by the European Court has led the UK government to clean up its act several times – for example, when it stopped pumping raw sewage into oceans on a regular basis and, more recently, being ordered by the courts to publish stronger air quality plans.
“To secure the high level of environmental protection that the public overwhelmingly wants and needs, UK governance institutions must be sufficiently resourced, independent and expert. Otherwise, environmental law will fail.
“The government will protest its good intentions, but it should be establishing systems that are proof against any future government that may want to weaken environmental and other protections.”
The Greener UK coalition formed in response to the EU referendum, united in the belief that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UK’s environment. It brings together 13 major environmental organisations, including the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, and WWF.
The Great Repeal Bill will end the supremacy of EU law and return power to the UK.
Amendments. The text of Repeal Bill amendment the groups are recommending the following:
(1) The relevant Ministers must, before the UK’s exit from the EU, make provision that all powers and functions relating to the UK that were carried out by an EU institution before the date of the UK leaving the EU will—
(a) continue to be carried out by an EU institution; or
(b) be carried out by an appropriate existing or newly created domestic body; or
(c) be carried out by an appropriate international body.
(2) For the purposes of this section, powers and functions relating to the UK exercised by an EU institution may include, but are not limited to—
(a) monitoring and measuring compliance with legal requirements,
(b) reviewing and reporting on compliance with legal requirements,
(c) enforcement of legal requirements,
(d) setting standards or targets,
(e) co-ordinating action,
(f) publicising information including regarding compliance with environmental standards.
(3) Within 12 months of the UK’s exit from the EU, the Government shall consult and bring forward proposals for domestic governance arrangements to ensure equivalent provision of the regulatory, monitoring, oversight, accountability, enforcement and other functions relating to the UK currently provided by EU institutions, by providing for the establishment by primary legislation of—
(a) a new independent body or bodies with powers and functions equivalent to those of the relevant EU institutions in relation to the environment; and
(b) a new domestic framework for environmental protection and improvement.
(4) For the purposes of this section ‘EU institution’ includes but is not limited to—
(a) the European Commission;
(b) the European Environment Agency;
(c) the European Chemicals Agency; and
(d) the European Court of Auditors.
(5) Responsibility for any functions or obligations arising from EU-derived UK law for which no specific provision has been made immediately after commencement of this Act will belong to the relevant Minister until such a time as specific provision for those functions or obligations has been made.
This article was originally posted on CIWM Journal Online.
Tories and Labour not being honest with voters: IFS [Abrided].
By Chris Johnston, May 26 2017.
Neither the Conservatives nor Labour are being honest with voters about the economic consequences of their policy proposals, an influential think tank has warned.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the Tories had very few tax or spending commitments in their manifesto.
Labour, in contrast, was proposing very big increases in tax and spending. However, the IFS said Labour’s plans for paying for its proposed expansion in state activity would not work.
IFS deputy director Carl Emmerson said neither manifesto gave voters an honest set of choices or addressed the long-term challenges the UK faced.
“For Labour, we can have pretty much everything – free higher education, free childcare, more spending on pay, health, infrastructure. And the pretence is that can all be funded by faceless corporations and ‘the rich’,” he said.
“There is a choice we can make as a country to have a bigger state – that would not make us unusual in international terms. But that comes at a cost in higher taxes, which would inevitably need to be borne by large numbers of us.”
Meanwhile, the Conservatives offered spending cuts the party had already promised, Mr Emmerson said. “Additional funding pledges for the NHS and schools are just confirming that spending would rise in a way broadly consistent with the March Budget,” he told a briefing in London on Friday.
“Compared with Labour, they are offering a relatively smaller state and consequently lower taxes. With that offer come unacknowledged risks to the quality of public services, and tough choices over spending.”
The IFS said the Tory plans “imply at least another five years of austerity, with the continuation of planned welfare cuts and serious pressures on the public services including on the NHS”.
Labour’s calculations that £49bn a year could be raised from the wealthiest individuals and companies were flawed and would raise £40bn at most in the short term, and less in the long term, it said.
This is one of several articles I have just posted, all connected with the future of the countryside and farming following the UK decision over Brexit.
Piglets on a organic farm in Wales, UK Photograph: Herb Bendicks/Alamy
John Vidal, The Guardian, Thursday 4 August 2016.
The National Trust has called for complete reform of the British farm subsidy system after Brexit, by ending payments for owning land and only rewarding farmers who improve the environment and help wildlife.
“The subsidy system is broken. It is not working. Farmers are going out of business. The state of wildlife is in steep decline and large parts of that is because of intensive agriculture. The vote to leave the EU allows us to think radically about the future of the entire system,” the trust’s director general, Dame Helen Ghosh, told the Guardian ahead of a speech at Blenheim Palace on Thursday.
“Taxpayers should only pay public subsidy to farmers in return for things that the market won’t pay for but which are valued and needed by the public. The current system rewards people for the hectares they own, with very inadequate standards for wildlife and the environment,” she said.
“In the long run there’s no conflict between maintaining our ability to grow food and looking after the land and nature on which it depends. The first is utterly dependent on the second.”
The proposals by the trust, which calls itself “Britain’s largest farmer” and is one of the biggest recipients of European common agriculture policy (CAP) payments, would see the basic income support system of subsidies scrapped and farmers being paid out of public funds only for environmental services such as flood prevention, wildlife and nature protection.
“It is essential to act now as 60% of species have declined in the UK over the last 50 years. Habitats, breeding grounds and food sources have been lost, soils have become depleted and natural fertility impoverished,” Ghosh will tell a BBC Countryfile conference.
“This has happened in large part due to the industrialised farming methods incentivised by successive funding regimes since the second world war. So it is not the fault of farmers but the fault of the system which is flawed and expensive,” she will say.
The biggest farms currently receive the biggest cheques but they often do the most harm to the environment. A new system could swing subsidies towards small farmers, benefiting those who protect soils and rivers, she said.
“Unless we make different choices, we will leave an environment that is less productive, less rich and less beautiful than that which we inherited,” she said.
The EU pays British farmers up to £3bn a year, of which around 20%, or £600m, is paid to farmers to protect the environment. The trust, which owns 618,000 acres of land and has about 2,000 tenants and 4 million members, received £3m in direct subsidy from CAP last year and £8m for environmental stewardship schemes. All the money was spent on conservation, it said.
Ghosh said she did not expect the price of food to automatically increase with the elimination of subsidies for land ownership. “The price of food is already affected by the global market. Only about 8p of the price of a loaf of bread is the cost of the wheat that it is made from. The link between the subsidy system and the price of food is not absolute.”
She said that many upland National Trust farmers already managed their land for the benefit of nature and landscape rather than for food production. Renewable energy, flood protection services and eco-tourism could pay more than subsidies.
Ghosh envisaged a phase-out period during which farmers would continue to receive payments for land ownership. “It cannot be done overnight. It is not clear yet when the current subsidy system will phase out. But all interested parties are asking for it to remain until 2025,” she said.
“We may need some kind of transition period to get there but that means payments for goods that go beyond food production – for the wildflowers, bees and butterflies that we love, for the farmland birds, now threatened, for the water meadows and meandering rivers that will help prevent the flooding of our towns, and for the rebuilding of the fertility and health of the soils on which both nature and production depend.”
Ghosh laid out six principles of farming and conservation which she said should apply in the new, post-Brexit system:
The National Farmers Union, with around 47,000 farmers, is consulting all its members before proposing a future domestic agriculture policy.
But its president, Meurig Raymond, rejected Ghosh’s proposals: “The picture the National Trust is trying to paint – that of a damaged countryside – is one that neither I nor most farmers, or visitors to the countryside, will recognise.”
He added: “We should not be contemplating doing anything which will undermine British farming’s competitiveness or its ability to produce food. To do so would risk exporting food production out of Britain and for Britain to be a nation which relies even further on imports to feed itself. In our view, food security should be considered to be a legitimate political goal and public good.”
Ross Murray, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said he was: “concerned by the Trust’s vision for a policy that sets solely environmental objectives. Only a profitable farming sector present throughout our countryside will ensure we have the people, the resource and the experience to deliver the environmental improvements the Trust rightly seeks to achieve. The policy that replaces the CAP must provide support for productive farming.”
This is one of several articles I have just posted, all connected with the future of the countryside and farming following the UK decision over Brexit.
Brexit could herald end to British fruit and veg sales, producers warn.
Foreign workers harvesting lettuce in the Lincolnshire Fens. Photograph: Tim Scrivener/REX/Shutterstock
Damian Carrington, The Guardian, Wednesday 3 August 2016.
British fruit and vegetables would all but vanish from shops if Brexit means the foreign workers who pick virtually all the home-grown produce are no longer able to come to the UK, according to some of the country’s biggest producers.
They warn that the nation’s food security would be damaged and that produce in UK shops would become more expensive if the freedom of movement for EU workers came to an end. They are urging ministers to set up a new permit scheme for seasonal workers.
Without a scheme, they say production would move abroad, where many already have large operations, or would switch to cereals which are harvested by machines. The Brexit vote is already deterring foreign workers from coming to the UK, the producers report.
About 90% of British fruit, vegetables and salads are picked, graded and packed by 60,000 to 70,000 workers from overseas, mostly from eastern Europe. Many of these work in areas which voted very strongly to leave the EU: the largely agricultural borough of Boston in Lincolnshire had the highest vote for leaving the EU in the whole country, at 75%.
“If we don’t have freedom of movement and they don’t replace it with a permit scheme then the industry will just close down” in the UK, said John Shropshire, chairman of G’s, one of the nation’s biggest producers of salads and vegetables, which employs 2,500 seasonal workers and also has farms in Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic and Senegal. “No British person wants a seasonal job working in the fields. They want permanent jobs or jobs that are not quite as taxing physically.”
“The government has to make a decision: either we bring the people to the work or we take the work to the people,” he told the Guardian. “The government has to decide does it want [the UK] to produce food or not – that is their decision.”
Angus Davison, chairman at Haygrove, a major berry and cherry producer, employing 800 seasonal workers, said that without them their growing would be exported: “We would move it to the continent. We wouldn’t be able to operate here in the UK because we would not be able to harvest the crops.” Half of Haygrove’s production is already in Portugal and South Africa.
“Do you want all your fresh produce to come from foreign countries?” he asked. “There would be more risks around its security, we wouldn’t be as food secure as a nation.” Davison said his company had 15 workers a day applying to its offices in Romania and Bulgaria before the Brexit referendum, but this has dropped now to one or two: “We are genuinely concerned. People over there are feeling they are not wanted here.”
More than 98% of those coming to the UK through a previous Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme returned home. It ran from 1948 to 2013, when Theresa May as home secretary scrapped it. Davison said: “Seasonal workers for harvesting crops are not migrants. They come here to do a job and they go away again.” Davison and other producers told the Guardian their existing seasonal staff had been very unsettled by the Brexit vote and that there was a moral duty for the government to clarify their future status.
The UK produces only half of the fresh produce it eats, but despite consumers wanting more British-grown fruit, vegetables and salad, the investment to increase the nation’s self-sufficiency is at risk if seasonal workers are not available, said Chris Mack, chairman at Fresca Group, another major producer whose businesses include five huge salad greenhouses at Thanet in Kent, where 64% of voters backed leaving the EU.
“We were hoping to build the sixth [greenhouse], but unless we have the people to go and pick the tomatoes, it’s difficult to see how we are going to do that,” he said. The introduction of the national living wage was already causing fruit and vegetable producers, who do not receive EU subsidies, to move to lower cost countries, Mack said: “If there is a further issue around the availability of labour, moving your fields overseas will be almost be the only option.”
Mack also said shoppers will be hit in the pocket if Brexit negotiations lead to no freedom of movement and no access to the single EU market: “There will be less access to fresh produce and prices will inevitably then go up.”
It is not just major producers who are concerned about the availability of seasonal workers. Erica Consterdine, from the University of Sussex’s Centre for Migration Research, said: “What is absolutely certain is that, without foreign labour, there are going to be massive labour market shortages. I’m not sure the government quite realises just how reliant these sectors are on EU labour.”
“It’s looking pretty bad in terms of the security of the food supply chain. It would be disastrous,” she said. “I can’t really see how the industry can survive in the long term without freedom of movement of workers, without reintroducing some kind of agricultural workers scheme. Economically, looking at the sector, it seems absolutely crazy not to.”
A government spokesperson said: “Nothing is changing overnight – freedom of movement remains in place while we are in the EU. The public clearly demanded control over immigration in the EU referendum and that is what we are going to deliver, but it will take some time. There will clearly be challenges to overcome in our negotiations to leave the EU, but Brexit means Brexit and we’re going to make a success of it.”
The National Farmers Union (NFU) is undertaking its largest ever consultation with its members after Brexit, with the issue of seasonal labour a key element. “There is a huge threat to an extremely important sector of British farming,” said Meurig Raymond, NFU president. “How often did we hear from the leave campaigners that we wanted to see more controlled immigration? The seasonal workers scheme was a controlled system.”
Attempts to recruit British workers for seasonal work have failed, farmers told the Guardian. Those willing to take temporary jobs opt for hospitality and other sectors, while others sent by unemployment offices rarely last a week, they said.
“I know one or two companies that have gone to very significant lengths to set up a supply of UK labour and it just hasn’t worked,” said Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association. “I think it is probably the outdoor nature of the work.” Consterdine said a pilot scheme from the Department of Work and Pensions had been “totally unsuccessful”.
The fresh produce industry is not the only farming sector warning of the risks of losing migrant workers. “If the central and eastern Europeans went back to their native countries then dairy farming would be in dire straits,” said Tim Brigstocke, policy director at the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers.
Roger Kelsey, a former butcher and now chief executive of the National Federation of Meat & Food Traders, said the UK meat industry was heavily reliant on labour from overseas: “It would not survive without them. Go into any abattoir or meat processing factory in the east of England – or anywhere in the UK – and you will see Polish and Portuguese workers helping the slaughtermen and doing what are seen as the unpleasant jobs, such as evisceration.” Even the vets employed by the Food Standards Agency are overwhelmingly – 98% – from the from EU nations.
All these sectors supply the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector: food and drink. The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) says its 7,000 member businesses employ 130,000 people from eastern Europe – more than a quarter of entire workforce. “If we are to remain competitive, we need urgent reassurance for the EU nationals working in the UK food and drink manufacturing sector and continuing unhindered access to workers from the EU,” said Ian Wright, FDF director general recently.
John Hardman, at the agricultural employment agency HOPS Labour Solutions, told the Farmers Guardian he was not optimistic that avoiding the loss of seasonal workers was high in government priorities: “We may only just start to move up that list when we cannot pick all of the strawberries for Wimbledon or Brussels sprouts for Christmas.”
Shropshire is more confident however: “I just can’t believe it will happen. “It would be a great shame for the country to export a large chunk of the British fresh produce industry.”
Laurence Olins, chairman of industry group British Summer Fruits, recently sent a letter and a large tray of fresh strawberries, raspberries and other berries to the new environment and home secretaries, Andrea Leadsom and Amber Rudd: “I sent the tray so they could actually taste them and see what they would be missing.”
The Future of The Countryside and Its Funding.
With the Brexiteers victory in the recent Referendum, what of funding for farmers and land managers working in the British countryside? It has to be remembered that a great many tourists visit Britain to explore and admire our green and pleasant land and so therefore, contribute to our economy…
That ‘greeness,’ highlights one of the current problems with our countryside. It is all, very green and very pleasant – until the more knowledgeable soul decides to set foot outside their car and explore and actually see what biodiversity is present. I can answer that: nothing like as much as say half a century ago! Development, roads, pollution, globalisation and modern chemical farming have devastated much of our wildlife whether it be water habitats (including marine), grasslands, heathlands or woodlands, they all have seen dramatic changes and these negative insidious, changes are still taking place.
So what will the Theresa May’s band of Three Brexiteers bring to the agricultural and ecological table. During the flawed Referendum debates, both bio-diversity and climate change received very little attention considering how pivotal they both are to our well-being.
Andrea Leadsum, DEFRA’s new minister, has gone on record as being rather ignorant when it comes to the facts on climate change; she has made sweeping un-qualified statements about badgers and fox control. She has also questioned the continued current EU regime of agri-payments to farmers and landowners for various work and services in the countryside. On this however, one has to say that the current system could most certainly be improved upon. We must look on the optimistic side on this subject and hope for a better system in the years post EU? But will there be the funding given all the other demands on the new Government?
Perhaps it’s time to throw another cap into the ring… There has been much talk of ‘rewilding’ during the last few years. There are as I recall only a handful of significant schemes operating in the UK at the moment – the Alladale Wilderness Reserve in northern Scotland, Wild Ennerdale in Cumbria, the Great Fen Project in Cambridgeshire and the Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex. These are all significant schemes but with all the various demands upon land within our small island, how realistic is it to envisage many more extensive versions? Perhaps the answer is to take out of food production, smaller areas of poor, or low productivity land such as some moorland or areas of heavy clay lands and subsidize a slightly less ambitious form of re-wilding – islands (where possible, connected by wildlife corridors), in an otherwise busy, income-generating countryside. Then there are the possibilities of the use of primitive breeds of domesticated bovine and equine livestock; free-range beef? However, I feel that if we were to go down this route, these areas should be viewed as permanent, rather than existing for several decades and then being cleared and returned to agriculture and new replacement wildlife oasis’s formed, this all part of some grand rolling programme. Morally and economically, except in specific cases, I feel this would be unacceptable.
There is also the role of reintroductions and revival schemes bringing missing, or currently scarce species due to past human practices, back into the wider British countryside. Current examples being beaver and lynx in the former category and wild boar, otter, polecat in the latter category.
Recent article for further reading:
Adam Vaughan, Thursday 16 June 2016.
Brexit voters almost twice as likely to disbelieve in manmade climate change.
British people backing a leave vote in the EU referendum are almost twice as likely to believe that climate change does not have a human cause, according to a new poll.
Brexiters are more likely to think the media exaggerates how settled climate science is; distrust scientists; have sympathy with creationism; oppose onshore windfarms and support fracking.
The findings come in a ComRes poll of 1,618 people evenly split between those intending to vote out and in.
Many prominent leave campaigners are either openly opposed to action on climate change or have cast doubt on man’s role in it, including former chancellor Nigel Lawson, former environment secretary Owen Paterson and columnist Matthew Ridley.
Boris Johnson once penned a column suggesting snow on his windowsill means we should consider believing climate sceptics over governments and leading scientists across the world, but has not openly denied manmade climate change.
In the ComRes poll published on Thursday, 18% of leave voters and 10% of remain votes disagreed with the statement: “human activity is causing climate change.” Some 3% of leave voters said they didn’t know, versus 1% of remain voters.
The world’s top authority on climate science, the UN’s IPCC, says it is 95% certain that humans are responsible for global warming in recent decades.
Among leave voters, 68% agreed that “the media exaggerates the level of scientific agreement there is on human activity causing climate change”, compared to 52% of remain voters. But several studies have shown around 97% of climate scientists agree climate change is manmade.
The polling also found 44% of leavers thought scientists had too much influence on British politics against 25% of remainers, and 46% of leavers agreed that people who question the theory of evolution “have a point” compared to 36% of remainers.
On energy, leave voters were more likely to oppose onshore windfarms in rural areas (36% versus 21% of remain voters), and more likely to support increasing the use of fracking to extract shale gas (40% versus for 35%).
“It’s disheartening to see that so many people still refuse to acknowledge clear scientific knowledge, thereby undercutting the efforts of Britain’s world-leading scientists,” said Assaad Razzouk, CEO of cleantech firm Sindicatum Sustainable Resources, who commissioned the poll.
“Climate change denialism and anti-evolutionism are obvious hindrances to productive discussions about the future of Britain, Europe and indeed the world.”