On 13th June 2022, the Bishop of St Albans tabled a question regarding food security and carbon emissions – the Bishop of Southwark spoke on his behalf:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the effects on food security of allowing corporations to purchase arable land to offset their carbon emissions; and what plans they have to limit the amount of arable land that can be used for this purpose.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, who has been unavoidably detained in his diocese and sends his apologies.
Lord Benyan (Con, Under-secretary of State – Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs): My Lords, I declare my farming interests as set out in the register. This Government are committed to safeguarding food security, as highlighted by the food strategy published today. I am very conscious of the issue raised, and we already have several protections in place, such as requirements for public consultations on any large new woodland as part of environmental impact assessments. I am also working closely with Her Majesty’s Treasury and BEIS to develop robust standards for green finance investments, and will set out the next steps in the forthcoming months.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, does the Minister agree that industrial-scale tree planting by large investment companies which purchase arable land may create what are called ecological dead zones and generate more carbon emissions if insufficient attention is given to biodiversity, according to the John Muir Trust? If so, how will Her Majesty’s Government ensure that such companies are subject to proper biodiversity requirements so that they may prove to be responsible stewards of the land?
Lord Benyon (Con): Yes, I agree with the right reverend Prelate that the wrong kind of trees planted in the wrong place under the wrong management style will be a loss for both the environment and the social element we want in our countryside. That is why there are very clear rules under the woodland carbon code which corporates would have to abide by, and why the Forestry Commission, if applying through grant aid schemes, will require standards to be maintained. For example, planting will not be permitted on deep peat; it will be concentrated on poor land.
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