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Reflections on #COP26 – Whole food chain must take responsibility

In the last of a series of COP26 blogs, President Martin Kennedy discusses the need for the whole food chain – from retailer back to the farmgate – to take responsibility for tackling emission reductions rather than farmers being left to carry the can. He writes:

“I had the opportunity to sit on a panel with Anna Turrell, the Head of Environment at Tesco and responsible for global climate change and sustainable agriculture on behalf of the nation’s largest retailer.

“Anna pointed out that Tesco had great ambitions for all their products to be net zero by 2030.

“While recognising that ambition, I felt I had to intervene and commented that when Tesco say that they will be doing all this to make their products net zero by 2030, what they possibly mean is to impose on us, as primary producers, the requirements to meet that goal.

“Our fellow panelist, Ishmael Sunga, the CEO at the South African Confederation of Agricultural Unions, backed that concern up and said that society, including all retailers, should all share responsibility when it comes to food production and its carbon footprint.

“He went on to add that there are always more and more demands put on farmers to deliver what the consumer wants but when things go wrong with growing crops or livestock through no fault of the farmer, maybe weather or disease, everyone walks away and leaves the farmer to pick up the pieces.

“So true and it was telling from the audience response that he had made the point extremely well.

“The level of support for sustainable food production throughout the whole COP26 conference was surprising and refreshing and, I have to say, I was left feeling quite upbeat about the industry we work in.  Even the role that new technology might play in the future got a fair hearing.

While on a panel on the French stand in Glasgow, the potential for science and technology in emissions reduction in livestock was discussed.  Those present understood the benefits of livestock not only as a fantastic, easily absorbed source of protein and vitamins, but also the positive contribution properly managed grazing livestock makes to the environment.

Unsurprisingly, the subject of methane calculation came up which gave me an opportunity to restate that the true method of calculation (GWP*) is not yet being used and this must still be pushed at every opportunity. This is something I will again raise at the next COPA meeting of European farming unions next month.

I have to say that given all the noise about methane and the commitments made by countries to reduce, the items most under the spotlight for methane were energy, landfill/waste, and rice.

COP26 has now passed, and Glasgow will get back to some form of normality. The deal struck isn’t what some desperately needed however it has put more on the table than has ever been there before, and compromise will always be required.

Personally, it was hugely engaging, listening to people from other parts of the world describe what their concerns were was extremely interesting and put into perspective what really matters in life.

With what I have heard over the two weeks of COP26, I am convinced that with a growing global population and a real growing concern across the world about food security, farmers will increasingly be seen as part of the solution on so many fronts.

Author: Martin Kennedy

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Andrew Moir

4 days ago

Well done Martin. Did Ms Turrell offfer to underwrite farmers contribution to Tesco net zero? AWM
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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin is a tenant farmer in Aberfeldy, Highland Perthshire and farms with his wife Jane and three daughters. They have 600 ewes and 60 cows on the farm rising from 800ft to 2,500ft. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire Branch chair, before representing East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009. Martin went on to be Vice-Chair before chairing the committee for three years. He was elected Vice-President in 2017 and elected as President in 2021.

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