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Executive Dinner Debate: food & fuel, not food vs. fuel

ADBA’s first dinner debate has concluded that the anaerobic digestion (AD) industry needs to ‘move the debate’ on sustainability and demonstrate that food and fuel production is complementary rather than competing.

Held in central London under Chatham House Rule, the debate included farmers, farming bodies, AD operators, academics and NGOs. Attendees discussed the balance between local and national environmental impacts, the importance of soil quality and how policy could better reflect the significant contribution of crops for AD, while avoiding negative carbon and environmental outcomes. There was strong consensus that the UK should improve policies around soil protection and enhancement, and that well-managed AD can make a contribution to improving soil quality. Industry attendees agreed that the industry needs to work closely with the next government to improve sustainability reporting and ensure it is fit for purpose.

Commenting at the debate, ADBA’s Chief Executive, Charlotte Morton, said:

Future policy for the UK bioenergy sector will be an important issue for the next government, which needs to consider how ‘sustainability’ should be measured, how to manage competing demands for land, and how to take into account biodiversity and wider environmental goals in any use of land. We are grateful to everyone who has taken part in ADBA’s dinner debate.  

Historically land has always been used for both energy and food production – whether oats for cart horses or wood for fuel – and biogas from crops is one of the most efficient forms of bioenergy, offering a flexible energy source which can meet peaks in demand. As populations continue to rise, however, pressure to use available land more efficiently will continue to increase.

Importantly, farmers can incorporate crops for AD as break, cover or catch options, use unproductive marginal land or otherwise support food production and their existing businesses. This can increase subsequent yields of food crops, helping deliver a vast range of valuable additional benefits to farming, the environment and biodiversity.

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