Achieving net zero in agriculture must not come at the expense of biodiversity loss or ’exporting’ our carbon emissions overseas.
Phil Jarvis, NFU Environment Forum chairman and farm manager at the Allerton Project, Leicestershire, told an Oxford Real Farming Conference session on net zero that farmers should focus on improving productivity, alongside maintaining and improving storage of carbon in grassland and producing more renewable energy.
"We have in the past exported a lot of our industrial carbon emissions and we cannot do the same with our food in the future," he said.
"We also have to look at our other greenhouse gas emitting sectors. Our citizen concerns sometimes do not play out when we we are a customer so we have to bear some responsibility when we travel or heat our houses.
"I do not see any point in us striving for net zero when we are not looking at other high polluting sectors like air travel."
Martin Lines, chairman of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said the focus on carbon storage should not come at the expense of wildlife and biodiversity. The solution had to be holistic.
"For example, there is no point planting trees to store carbon and getting rid of habitat for ground nesting birds," Mr Lines told a packed hall.
Commenting on reports which suggested cow numbers had to be reduced dramatically to achieve net zero goals, Jenny Phelps, of the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, said: "If we cull all the cows we will not improve our soils.
"We need to remove our cows from inside and take them outside."