One of the country’s most senior business figures has called on the Government to set up an “agroecology bank” to support sustainable farming.
Sir Ian Cheshire, the former Barclays and Kingfisher boss who was the Government’s lead non-executive between 2015 and 2018, is backing plans that he calls a “win-win” for the UK in the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, in Glasgow.
Farming in the UK accounts for more than a tenth of greenhouse gas emissions and 83pc of ammonia emissions.
Agroecology advocates the use of green technologies, eliminating the need for synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. It also promotes increasing the amount of land dedicated for ponds, hedges and meadows.
A report by the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, chaired by Sir Ian, highlights that there is limited funding available for farmers to convert to agroecology techniques.
The analysis compares agroecology with wind farms, which were economically viable in the long-term – but required funding from the Green Investment Bank to support unproven technologies.
The Green Investment Bank was launched by the Government in 2012 before being sold to Australian lender Macquarie in 2017.
As lead non-executive in Government, Sir Ian was the most influential business voice in Whitehall for three years. He stepped down as chairman of Barclays UK at the start of January but remains on the board of BT.
He said: “This report is exactly the kind of radical and practical idea that the UK government needs to develop in preparation for COP26.
“The UK leads the world in financial innovation, and this idea is one that builds on successful investment models in other sectors and internationally, as well as delivering against climate commitments.
“This is a ‘win-win’ for the UK government – facilitating investment in farmers across the UK nations so that they can build successful businesses and help us meet our climate goals.”
Sue Pritchard, Food, Farming and Countryside Commission chief executive, said: “The practical support that would help some farmers make the transition is underdeveloped.
“We urge the UK government to take advantage of the opportunity to announce the agroecology development bank.”