Looking back on COP26

A photo of Cambridgeshire farmer Tom Clarke

Cambridgeshire farmer Tom Clarke

With COP26 finished, pledges signed and world leaders back home, NFU East Anglia’s Agricultural Policy Graduate Alastair Heinrich speaks to East Anglia’s own Tom Clarke about his time spent in Glasgow.

After a fast paced two weeks the largest climate change summit the UK has ever hosted came to an end on Sunday 14 November. Some of the highlights included the breakfast offering surprising some attendees with their carbon footprints, a pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030 and the signing of the Glasgow Climate Pact.

Attending various talks and panel sessions as part of the NFU delegation, Tom Clarke was there to gain a greater insight into how the public, NGOs and policy makers approach climate change.

What was your experience like?
The event itself was eye opening, with such a varied mix of groups, backgrounds and agendas represented there, all with the objective of preventing the negative impacts of climate change. However, not all of them were sympathetic towards agriculture. I think they were generally unaware of the potential for agriculture to be a tool in combatting global warming.

What was your main takeaway message?
I now understand how important it is that the farming industry attends events like this, to represent agriculture and ensure that we are not being crowded out of the important conversations.

As a British farmer, who is proud to produce safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly food, there is always more I and other farmers can do to promote our industry. If we don’t, others will speak for us in our absence and, unsurprisingly, that will not always be to the benefit of agriculture.

Did agriculture feature at COP26?
There were a lot of topics to be discussed as climate change is a global issue, but farming wasn’t at the centre, as I think many of us had hoped it would be.

It was more of a side issue this year, but at COP27 next year in Egypt I believe farming will play more of a central role.

Unfortunately, what discussions were had about agriculture tended to be focused mainly on livestock and meat consumption and methane emissions. With several groups and panels suggesting cutting meat consumption as a valid method of combating climate change. I think that, sadly, this was mainly a Trojan horse being used by a few animal rights and meat-free diet groups to promote their cause.

As an arable farmer, I was surprised at the intensity of the negative attitude towards livestock. It is something that I hadn’t really experienced myself before COP. But when I said I’m looking to bring livestock onto the farm to reduce my artificial nitrogen usage, some attendees looked at me like I was an alien, especially when I explained that we actually need more livestock to fight global warming.

What’s next?
Like everyone I am waiting to hear about how the pledges and agreements that have been signed play out.

For me, I’m looking forward to COP27 in Egypt, where farming will be a central focus, and where I think we can really step up the work to promote agriculture as a solution to climate change.

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