Net Zero review is a "historic opportunity"

Tom Bradshaw

Tom Bradshaw

NFU Deputy President

An image of Tom Bradshaw leaning against a tree

Following an independent review of the government's Net Zero Strategy, a report known as 'Mission Zero' has been published calling for reforms to governance structures, taxation and planning policy. NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw reflects on the findings. 

A Land Use Framework as soon as possible this year; full details of all ELMs incentives by the end of 2023; rapid progress in ecolabelling of food and drink products with a common carbon footprint standard; and a strategy for decarbonising agricultural machinery by the end of the year – these are just some of the recommendations that the NFU is satisfied to see in the review of net zero policy by former energy minister Chris Skidmore MP, which was published hastily in mid-January after elements of the report were leaked to the press.

A new era of opportunity 

Four months ago, Liz Truss was Prime Minister and her Business Secretary was Jacob Rees-Mogg. Aware of the scepticism shown by the Tory right towards the government’s Net Zero Strategy, they commissioned an independent review to see whether climate change policy was being delivered in a manner that was “pro-business and pro-growth”.

This task was entrusted to the Right Honourable Member for Kingswood, a marginal constituency on the east side of Bristol. Chris Skidmore MP was actually the junior energy minister who signed the breakthrough legislation in 2019 committing the UK to end its contribution to climate warming by 2050.

Perhaps, therefore, it should be no surprise that his report describes the net zero transition as “a new era of opportunity”, although he goes further in criticising the current political uncertainty and inconsistency (think: Cumbrian coal mine) which is arguably undermining the UK’s leadership on tackling climate change.

Emphasis on how food is produced

Chris Skidmore and his team consulted widely, receiving over 1800 responses to the call for evidence, including more than 50 roundtables around Britain.

Last October I participated in one of these, through the cross-industry Broadway Initiative, emphasising our frustration at the lack of any clear net zero direction under the Environmental Land Management scheme, the need for incentives to enable consistent farm carbon audits, and the challenge of electricity grid capacity to allow more independent on-farm renewable generation with solar, wind and batteries.

I think we can be pleased that Mr Skidmore has taken a fairly sympathetic approach to the agricultural sector, with an emphasis more on how we produce food and use our land, rather than the prescriptive recommendations about dietary change and livestock numbers that we hear too often from other quarters.

Expect to see the NFU making good use of this political capital in our ongoing discussions with Defra and other government departments.

NFU key asks for net zero:

For farming to deliver our collective net zero ambitions and continue climate smart farming we need targeted incentives in the tax system for farm businesses to pursue the net zero agenda.

In addition:

  • Defra must prioritise net zero in its ATP (Agricultural Transition Plan), including effective productivity grant offers beyond 2025 and incentivising greenhouse gas auditing.
  • The ATP must also address volatility support and provide the critical resilience farm businesses require.
  • The energy network infrastructure in rural areas must be upgraded to improve grid connectivity and capacity.
  • Farming needs strong safeguards to ensure nature-based projects work alongside the domestic production of food, energy, and fibre.
  • Policy making across Whitehall must be seen through the lens of climate smart food production, including an accommodating and responsive planning system for new/upgraded agricultural buildings and structures.

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