NFUS vice-president Martin Kennedy has highlighted the drastic fall in air pollution in UK cities as a result of Covid-19 lockdown measures has confirmed agriculture as ‘part of the solution’ to mitigating climate change.
According to data collected by the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), a 50-60 per cent reduction in the use of transport during the crisis has resulted in a major drop in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, particularly nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5)
With emissions from agriculture accounting for just 10 per cent of the UK’s GHG emissions, Mr Kennedy said the data was useful in highlighting how agriculture had been unfairly demonised for its contribution to climate change.
He said: “The industry has constantly been criticised as being part of the problem with regards to climate change, yet this data verifies that transport and aviation are the biggest contributors to global warming."
Defra statistics have also confirmed a 40 per cent drop in the level of NO2 in the atmosphere across the UK.
Pointing to the ’vital’ role of British farming in protecting the environment, Mr Kennedy added: "We are seeing cleaner air and clearer skies, despite our industry still working flat out to produce food for the nation.
"Our role as land managers means we are part of the solution, as grasslands act as a sink through which carbon is sequestered and removed from the atmosphere."
The data demonstrates how the level of NO2 and PM2.5 has dropped to below the typical level as people have spent less time in vehicles, offices and factories as a result of Covid-19 isolation measures.
Steve Coupe, who farms dairy and beef near the outskirts of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, said the air was ‘noticeably cleaner’ and urged livestock and dairy production was ’not solely to blame’ for emissions.
He said: “The air is cleaner and farmers like me are farming exactly as they have always done throughout the entire period, with just as many cows.
“I think in 10 years from now people will look back at the data for this period and see the major reduction in emissions and it will be a point in history.”
NFU vice-president Stuart Roberts said the situation helped to demonstrate how the work done by British farmers to produce climate-friendly meat and reduce emissions had often been ‘overlooked’.
Highlighting the way in which British farming had ‘already raised the bar’ for broad-based action on climate change Mr Roberts said: “I hope this situation helps the public understand that our national priority must be to reduce our use of fossil fuels, not only to deliver cleaner air as we have seen happen here, but to massively reduce our impact on the climate.”
To access the NCAS data on air pollution, click here.