AD’s role in achieving Net Zero in farming 2040 goal
By Stuart Roberts, Vice President, National Farmers’ Union
Earlier this year, the NFU announced that British farmers are committed to greater action on climate change, setting the ambitious goal of achieving ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the whole of agricultural production by 2040. This is consistent with the with the UK’s aim of achieving net zero emissions across the economy by 2050, as well as the scientific and policy advice of both the Royal Society and the Committee on Climate Change.
Action to deliver net zero farming requires a portfolio of different policies and practices focused on reducing greenhouse gases emissions from fossil fuels, improving land management and better capturing carbon. The full range of anaerobic digestion across all scales will play a key role in this context, using animal manures, crops and crop by-products to create low-carbon gas to replace fossil fuels and petrochemicals, while returning nutrients and organic matter to land.
The main areas for the AD sector in the future will be to supply low-carbon gas for public and commercial heating through the gas network, to actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with bioenergy carbon capture and storage and to support smaller-scale AD plants for avoided methane emissions and other desirable environmental outcomes, including enhanced soil health and carbon storage.
According there are 373 agricultural AD plants in the UK, well over 50% of the total number of 660 units, including food processing, waste management and sewage treatment.
By 2021, as many as 150 large AD biomethane plants might meet about 3% of UK domestic gas network demand. To achieve net zero, the country would require more like 1,500 such plants which could provide up to one-third of household needs.
The NFU is frustrated that Defra has not yet offered more explicit support for smaller-scale on-farm AD, that recognises the multiple environmental benefits that this technology brings;
Future agri-environmental schemes such as Environmental Land Management will also need to incentivise the use of digestate to stimulate the bio-fertilizer market and reap its benefits for soil carbon storage.
For more on this from Stuart Roberts, get your ticket for ADBA National Conference 2019, 11th December, London where Roberts will be presenting a keynote address at 10am. Visit our website here.