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What is the right approach to reach environmental goals? Using incentives and subsidies, or using rules and disincentives? And where does food security fit in?

What is the right approach to reach environmental goals? Using incentives and subsidies, or using rules and disincentives? And where does food security fit in?

Towards the end of last year, the UK government rolled out a plan to take UK farmers away from subsidies and to move to more sustainably based systems. A reminder of this came last week when the UK PM, Boris Johnson, addressed the first UK National Farmers Union (NFU) conference since they left the EU.

Broadly, 75% of UK farmers say they are not viable without the subsidies they have been receiving from the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy.

The NFU say they see one of the greatest risks coming from overseas exports. Beef and grain were singled out as both of these industries export around 20% into Europe and there is uncertainty about future access and competition coming from countries able to produce products more cheaply. 

The UK government is smoothing the pathway away from the EU subsidies, which were due to expire in 2027 by introducing a range of incentives for going ‘green’. This includes incentives for flood control, wildlife habitat protection and protecting trees and natural areas. These payments are also due to expire in 2028 when farmers are expected to be able to “running sustainable businesses and not have to rely on public subsidies”.

Starting in 2021 farmers will progressively receive less and less in direct payments and get increasingly more in incentives for moving towards the ‘greener and more sustainable future’.

By 2024 all payments will be the green incentives but from that point even they will begin to be phased out until all subsidies are gone by 2028.

While it appears to be a means to reduce farm productivity the scheme does have provisions to help farmers “invest in productivity measures” and “providing support to new entrants seeking to develop new land-based businesses, by creating lasting opportunities to access land, infrastructure and support”.

In the past for the purposes of subsidies in the UK, all land holdings of a farming business were treated as a single holding. Under the new scheme all individual lots will be treated individually. When it comes to what farmers receive, farms of scale are getting their share pared back at a faster rate than smaller farms.

The larger the subsidy received the greater the percentage it is reduced by annually.

With the drive to help improve farm productivity and efficiency the UK still has its eye firmly on food security however it is taking a very socialist approach to letting everyone help pay for the environmental benefits.

Even the livestock are not missing out with additional help for livestock farmers with subsidised vet visits and assistance with animal welfare issues.

From New Zealand farmers' perspective it is a total flip of how government approaches agriculture with the UK providing a large dose of carrot and very little stick.

Greenhouse gas emissions are not mentioned in the document although there appears to be plenty of assistance to improve “slurry storage and disposal” (read manure) and farmers are provided assistance to plant trees, mainly it appears to improve habitat not  to sequester CO2.

It could be argued that the reverse philosophy is being applied in New Zealand with farmers being increasingly held liable for emissions (despite UNCCC saying food production should be kept out of any ETS) and farmers dissuaded from planting trees as they cannot claim any of the benefits from CH4 mitigation.

Ironically, a report has just come out in the ninth annual Global Food Security Index (GFSI) released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Of the 113 countries monitored, including New Zealand, 49 have been shown to have become more vulnerable to losing production through the effects of climate change. These are not just developing countries but include countries like Australia, Norway and Sweden.

Despite the improvements with technologies climate change plus the impact of Covid-19 has meant global food security has decreased for the second year in a row and 2021 looking no better. Perhaps surprisingly for the third consecutive year, the North America region is leading the world in food security. Europe is a close second, accounting for eight of the top 10 countries.

New Zealand is sitting 13 equal overall on 77 out of 100 with Finland top on 85.3. New Zealand features well on affordability and food safety and quality but is weaker on availability and natural resources and resilience. Back in 2012 when the index began New Zealand was on 78.6 so a small drop has been experienced. Australia has gone from 72.8 to 71.3 and 31st on the index. No doubt droughts and floods have played their part here. While the western countries are generally performing the best, the biggest improvers have been the developing countries.

To date, a lack of food production is not a major global threat with politics and logistics far greater reasons for a lack of nutrition for deprived populations and the environment should not be traded off for productivity.

However, a little more balance in how improvements are paid for and who benefits could be more constructive than the current approach we use in new Zealand.

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I don't much care how it's done as long as we have a comprehensive and robust climate policy. What will always fail will be approaches that leaves loopholes that can be used to arbitrage the climate change rules. For example applying tax or banning petrol and diesel without also applying the same disincentives to aviation fuel will only result in more air miles flown as people circumvent the intentended outcome of those policies. The same with farming.

Not much comprehensiveness out out there to reduce global temps by 0.17 degrees in 2100. In contrast the planet has cooled itself by 0.47 degrees in the past twelve months without any vain glorious policies.

"Only two of the world’s 18 largest greenhouse gas emitters — the UK and the European Union — have so far submitted plans for the COP26 summit that lay out extensive commitments and policies to reduce emissions. Other big emitters are either yet to submit updated strategies or have drafted plans that are too weak to achieve the 2015 Paris climate target of limiting global temperature rise to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels."
"All climate policies by the US, China, the EU and the rest of the world, implemented from the early 2000s to 2030 and sustained through the century will likely reduce global temperature rise about 0.17°C in 2100. "


You were recently peddling misinformation on the number of Covid excess deaths and now on global warming. I suggest that you take your head out of whatever social media swamp you inhabit and do some fact-checking.

So now The Times is a social media swamp. Good to know. Do you ignore satellite temperature data?
Feb 20 +0.59 above the 30 year average
Jan 21 +0.12.
Looks like a 0.47 degree drop to me. But hey, don't let facts get in the way of a good diatribe.
What is this excess death data you refer to - you seem to go all quiet when I ask you to put up.

"In contrast the planet has cooled itself by 0.47 degrees in the past twelve months without any vain glorious policies." "the year 2020 secured the rank of second warmest year in the 141-year record, with a global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average of +0.98°C (+1.76°F). This value is only 0.02°C (0.04°F) shy of tying the record high value of +1.00°C (+1.80°F) set in 2016" NASA has 2020 tied for hottest year on record. Goodness knows what fake figures you are quoting?

So we can take it that you know more than every actually qualified climatologist in the world.

Or you are just peddling misinformation.

Which is it?

First The Times is a social media swamp, and now the satellite record is misinformation. Argue from authority all you want but you will still find a drop of 0.47 degrees.

Ah, the University of Alabama Huntsville data set, every science deniers favourite data set. Even after being corrected at least 6x, it still seems to downplay the evidenced warming for some reason. I guess being run by "experts" who lend their services to fossil funded lobby groups doesn't help its accuracy?

The satellite data is corroborated by radiosonde data. Try harder.

If you want to RSS, not so up to date, but the difference from the same start period is -0.457 so remarkably similar to UAH (and the weather balloon network).

Examination of space-based bulk atmospheric temperatures used in climate research

"Dr. Spencer’s research has been entirely supported by U.S. government agencies: NASA, NOAA, and DOE. He has never been asked by any oil company to perform any kind of service. Not even Exxon-Mobil."

What a joke! The quote you referenced is from the Exxon Mobil funded "Heartland Institute" Try again!

The quote is from Dr. Roy Spencers blog. Your heartland link has no such quote. Why do you make stuff up?

You forgot to tell me what your problem is with RSS.

"Before becoming a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2001, he was a Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where he and Dr. John Christy received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for their global temperature monitoring work with satellites. Dr. Spencer’s work with NASA continues as the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He has provided congressional testimony several times on the subject of global warming.

Dr. Spencer’s research has been entirely supported by U.S. government agencies: NASA, NOAA, and DOE. He has never been asked by any oil company to perform any kind of service. Not even Exxon-Mobil."

Try again! "Dr. Spencer’s research has been entirely supported by U.S. government agencies: NASA, NOAA, and DOE. He has never been asked by any oil company to perform any kind of service. Not even Exxon-Mobil." While acting as "expert" for a fossil funded lobby group.

So you can't find any evidence he is funded by "fossil fuels". He is free talk at any conference he wants. It's not like he was President the International Union of Socialist Youth.

Sooo, this is how you gather your weird interpretations of facts? By applying your own spin? If you bother to read my posts, you may notice I said "worked for a fossil funded organisation", which is actually 100% verified, regardless of your howls of denial!

RSS uses the same dataset as UAH, the difference is, it's not run by hacks for corporate lobbyists, hence the difference in observed warming! "The UAH linear temperature trend 1979-2019 shows a warming of +0.13 °C/decade.
For comparison, a different group, Remote Sensing Systems (RSS), also analyzes the MSU data. From their data: the RSS linear temperature trend shows a warming of +0.208 °C/decade."

Spare me days. They don't use the same dataset - they use completely different satellites! And yet their recorded temperature drop in the past 12 months is virtually identical.
My god you are light weight. Were you born in 08?

What kind of moron believes an anomalous 12 month drop in temperature, in a faulty data set, run by known climate deniers, is at all relevant? The combination of all data gathered, from land temperature records, ocean temperature records, ice melt, sea level rise, changing seasonal responses of biota, increasing global humidity, stratospheric temperature decline, when combined with the well established facts known about physical properties of CO2, should make the climate problem clear to all except the most ardent denial cultist. NASA has 2020 as the warmest year on record, NOAA second warmest.

"He has provided congressional testimony several times on the subject of global warming." Well yes he has. Does that give him credibility? Depends if being called on to confirm the anti science biases of the politicians that called on him to testify confers credibility? I would call him a downright liar, although being so doesn't seem to offend his self styled evangelical christian sensibilities? When you consider the number of scientists working on climate you'd think the US government could find some that would tell them the truth, but the US seems to be suffering a post truth phase at the mo. :-)

I see Spencer received his Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal from NASA 29 years ago. Be interesting to know, after years of knuckle dragging the science through the gutter, whether he'd get one today?

So ridiculous, now the conservatives realize the contribution from the EU to the UK was actually net positive in the agriculture sector? The Brexit supporters might have forgotten to mention this in the rural areas where they got most of the leave votes. Why didn't they push for these polices while in the EU and leave those subsidies to other poorer countries instead?

Just to clarify, agri-environment payments will remain in England beyond 2028. New schemes are being piloted, so will be changes to the way these are delivered, but subsidies still available. It is only the land based payments that will be fully phased out. Scotland is some way behind developing new / replacement schemes.

People are going to have to adjust to food becoming 'more expensive' relative to other things. The process which saw farmers as 'price-takers' was a temporary aberration.

I think this is a more fair system. In NZ a tax is called an incentive and for the average farmer, the more you give and the more you do, the more they want. It's pointless leading the way when you don't know where you are heading, and as far as I can see, the direction the increasing regulations are heading, is toward the eventual end of animal farming in NZ. Fence of the waterways, ok now take out those fences and fence 5m back from the waterways etc. Our rivers are the cleanest in the world, and we are doing a good job. It'd be nice to see some support instead of constant new regulations and increasing costs of compliance so that every years profit has to go toward the latest set of rushed regulations.

The article is wrong.

Farmers will not face the full cost of carbon reduction in NZ, unlike the rest of society, and will remain subsidised.

Farmers are already heavily subsidised through there ability to effectively treat NZ rivers as open sewers without having to mitigate nitrogen levels down to international benchmark standards.

Here we go again...More hyperbole and rubbish from the anti-farmer brigade.

The facts are:
1. NZ farmers have not received subsidies since the Douglas government stripped them out - unlike most of the rest of the world which provides heavy subsidies for it's farmers.
2. NZ's methane cloud has been stable since the 1980's so NZ farmers have not significantly contributed to global warming since then (unlike transport etc from which CO2 emissions have grown hugely since then).
3. Unlike forestry (which is measured on net emmissions) farming is being measured on gross emissions - thus the hugely significant factors of sequestration of woody vegetation on our farms and the inconvenient fact that methane degrades over 12 years are being blindly ignored by CCC (and most of the public).
4. As a hill country farmer I drink from my farm creeks every day - so your comment on "open sewers"is both ignorant and mischievous. Suggest you get out into the hills a bit more before making such commentary.

5. Soil carbon sequestered by pastoral grazing is conveniently ignored by the carbon bureaucrats.

Subsidies include not having to pay the full cost of waste disposal, thereby reducing the actual costs paid for production.

So subsidies remain.

Because urban cities like our capital are such pictures of water protection and health... Oh wait no urban water courses are the most polluted with deadly toxins and sewage.

Great article - this is the 'conversation' we need to start having with govt.

The Climate commission has suggested that 50% of the forestry cpmponent of the emmissions budget be natives (longer lasting + greater biodiversity)
Laudable aims but never going to happen if left to farmers alone, That is if NZ inc desires this outcome we will need all of it; more labour, more cash to pay for it and more expertise in managing the whole program, specific to each and every region. Pines are simply a weed and can be shoved in and left.

When the Labour/Green factions found themselves in government after 2017, they formulated a plan to deal with the response their rhetoric demanded vis-a-vis climate change. That plan was to encourage investors to buy farms on which to plant pine trees as carbon sinks, thus providing the offsets for the public's emissions and therefore not upsetting the public by forcing them to make lifestyle changes. Farming was considered expendable and soon to be replaced by synthetic foods. The lost income from farming was to be replaced by increased revenue from tourism. Unfortunately for this plan Covid came along, tourism is now dead in the water and the country once again finds itself financially dependent on land based enterprises. When the then National government signed NZ up to the Paris Agreement it was with the attached rider " that NZ would not be a leader but a 'fast follower' , with one eye on what our trading partners ( and competitors) are doing". Guy's article is but one example of what our trading partners are doing. The present government's blind pursuit of ideological purity is more inimical to NZ's wider interests than any efforts of our competitors.

Good article thanks.

I think more farms need to do this:

Yeah....nah. They are not in the business of farming, they are residential and commercial landlords and accommodation providers. The subsidies they get are their next largest income earners, and the actual income from the farm trading activity is the least part of their income. Even without subsidies their landlord/accommodation business should keep them profitable.
"the farm currently receives
£220,000 for having its land in the highest level of environmental stewardship scheme
£195,000 in “basic payments” which every British farmer receives via EU funds.
£118,000 from renting seven former workers’ cottages.
£500,000 from renting former farm buildings to local businesses
glamping’s £230,000 turnover
£120,000 from selling 75 tonnes of live weight high-grade organic meat"

The subsidies alone would provide a decent income in NZ.