Transparency needed on corporations purchasing viable farm land for carbon offset schemes to avoid farmers being priced out, says report

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Greater transparency and information is needed about the purchase of viable farm land in Wales by corporations using carbon offset schemes, the Welsh Affairs Committee warns upon publication of its report on family farms.

While MPs recognise the importance of woodland to tackle the climate emergency, concerns were raised that companies could be attempting to “game the system” by investing in farming land to offset emissions which is then lost to Welsh agriculture.

According to the Committee, farmers could find themselves ‘priced out’ of good quality farming land as many can simply not compete with the prices paid by wealthy companies for the land.

Stephen Crabb, Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee, commented: “Farming is an incredibly important and vital sector for communities across Wales. An enormous 90% of Welsh land is used for farming, and comparably with England, the farming sector employs more people and contributes more to the Welsh economy.

“Yet, Welsh farming is facing a challenging time in a number of different areas. We heard that a significant amount of farming land is being lost to carbon offset projects which is being sold at such a high price to wealthy companies that farmers, many of whom are already struggling financially, cannot compete with.

“While offsets could be a useful tool in meeting net zero, there must be adequate safeguards in place to avoid greenwashing by companies relying on offsets to avoid difficult decisions to tackle emissions at source.

“Further, with older generations dominating the farming community, we must make sure they have a suitable route into retirement so farming, and the rich legacy of traditions that come with it, continue in younger generations.”

The Committee invites the Welsh Government to consider whether it has appropriate safeguards in place to ensure companies investing in carbon woodland offsets have credible emission reductions schemes, calls on the Welsh and UK governments to improve the transparency and regulation of carbon offset schemes which in effect create a change of land use, and suggests that greater transparency may be achieved by the creation of a register of carbon offset schemes so that the extent of this problem can be monitored.

‘The economic and cultural impacts of trade and environmental policy on family farms in Wales’-report is available on the UK Parliament website.