A recently leaked memo revealed that Johnson was looking at implementing a sector-by-sector ‘carbon tax’ to encourage industries and organisations to reduce their emissions.
This, it was suggested, could raise £27 billion annually by 2030 for the Treasury and the green economy according to the Zero Carbon Campaign.
With the upcoming COP26 climate summit a chance for the UK to showcase its pioneering approach to tackling climate action, it was disappointing to see that carbon pricing plans were left out of the 2021 Budget.
The Government has missed its opportunity to ensure the shift toward net zero starts happening now.
It is especially disappointing as the farming sector is set to be one of the biggest winners from a stronger ambition on carbon pricing, as long as farmers work with nature, rather than against it.
Farmers currently manage one of the largest carbon sinks in the world, the soil beneath their feet. By harnessing the land’s potential to absorb carbon, farmers could earn more money from locking carbon into their soils than they would be paying in carbon tax.
Nature friendly farming allows farmers to earn money from carbon sequestration and also creates a host of wider benefits including increased biodiversity, cleaner water systems, more resilient crops and more productive and profitable farms.
The benefits of nature-positive land use are not just being presented in studies; they are a lived experience for many of the farmers that make up the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN).
Carbon pricing is an exciting opportunity as we exit the EU and redesign the UK’s complex system of agricultural subsidies.
For farmers to reap the benefits of nature-based solutions we need holistic policies that consider wider climate objectives, for example integrating negative emission payments in the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme.
The UK could pioneer an alternative strategy, the creation of a negative emissions market. This would allow us to scale investment in nature-based solutions even further by enabling businesses to offset their emissions by buying negative emissions credits from farmers and deducting these carbon savings from their carbon tax bill.
Joining-up policy in this way would help support farmers to deliver on their environmental goals by strengthening the incentive for them to make the extensive land-use transformations that are required to achieve the UK’s net-zero targets.
While there is huge potential for farmers to benefit from the initiative both financially and through the restoration of their environment and biodiversity, before pricing can be applied to the farming sector, farmers must become better equipped with the tools we need to reduce on-farm agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
This means working with Government to develop policies that will enable farmers to measure and manage our emissions and build adaptation to climate change into our farm business and environment plans.
It also means taking steps to ensure UK products are competing on a level playing field with imports from other countries.
One solution, advocated by the NFFN and the Zero Carbon Campaign, is to introduce a border tax on carbon-intensive imports, while exempting countries with equivalent or stronger levels of carbon pricing.
A border tax will ensure low or negative carbon produce remains price competitive, supporting the farmers that have invested in reaching net zero.
As Government has already missed its opportunity to implement carbon taxing in the 2021 Budget, sector leaders should be encouraging Alok Sharma, president of COP26, and Government to show climate leadership.
That is why I’ve signed the Zero Carbon Campaign’s new petition, which urges governments to look at introducing effective charges on carbon emissions to tackle the climate crisis and raise much-needed funds to help ensure farmers and consumers can reap the benefits of the net zero transition.
There is no solution to climate change without farmers taking the lead.