A new bank could fast-track a shift to sustainable farming by financing loans to farmers looking to move into agroecology or regenerative farming.
That’s the message from a new report by the Food and Farming Commission (FFCC), which said proper investment in sustainable farming could address the climate and biodiversity crises, public health, domestic food security and the post-pandemic recovery.
The proposed new ‘Agroecology Development Bank’ could play “a distinct and specialised role in agricultural and rural transformation”, the report said, inspired by the success of the Green Investment Bank, which helped galvanise investment and training for the renewable energy sector.
Pointing to its success in renewables, the FFCC said the same “bold stimulus” is now needed for farming.
The bank could be complementary to the British Business Bank, the newly established National Infrastructure Bank, the Scottish Investment Bank and Development Bank of Wales, the FFCC said.
Former chair of Barclays bank and chair of the FFCC, Sir Ian Cheshire, said: “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.”
Agroecology, an umbrella term that covers organic, and regenerative farming are practices that work with nature and reduce harmful inputs such as pesticides.
A switch to these methods could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 38 per cent, and potential to offset more with carbon sequestration, according to the report.
Underpinned by research from the study Ten Years for Agroecology, the report said that investment in these areas could be “game changing” for stimulating rapid change and attaining the UK climate goals.
“It is clear a transition to agroecology could help address multiple challenges; the climate and nature emergencies, the public health crisis and now a fair and green post-covid economic recovery,” said FFCC chief executive, Sue Pritchard.
Despite the potential of agroecological farming, the report said there were considerable obstacles, including lack of finance and expertise, especially for young people, new entrants and tenant farmers.
It comes as the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26) takes place in Glasgow later this year, alongside a likely focus on the UK as host government’s action to tackle the climate crisis.
“This report is exactly the kind of radical and practical idea that the UK government needs to develop in preparation for COP26,” said Cheshire.
“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.”