Marl Tufnell is President of the Country Land and Business Association, a membership organisation which represents 28,000 farmers, land managers and rural businesses across England and Wales.

If the recent budget announcement tells us anything, it’s that the Government is greatly underfunding rural Britain’s push to help fight climate change. The additional funds to support tree planting and peatland restoration announced in the run up to COP26 is a positive step, but the Government is already significantly behind its existing targets.

While tree planting will play a key role within the government’s environmental goals, it is not a silver bullet, and we must bolster investment beyond it.

Agriculture is still responsible for around ten per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, a figure that remains stubbornly high. With the eyes of the world on international commitments, managing domestic emissions must not be forgotten – and the responsibility falls to government to lead the way.

Innovative techniques have led methane emissions from British cows being 50 per cent lower than the global average thanks to our grazing techniques. In fact, half of all agricultural land is given over to grassland or rough grazing, storing an estimated 10 billion tons of CO2. Additionally, 60 per cent of the food we eat comes from domestic farming, helping to support our rural economy and keep food miles low.

When it comes to farming, the UK already has very high environmental standards. Many farmers and landowners are actively planting more trees on their farms, such as one of our members, Ed Milbank, who is planting 680,000 trees over the 350 hectares on a former sheep and cattle farm. Likewise, many members are now powering their farms from on-site, renewable energy sources.

However, now the EU subsidy schemes are being phased out, the new Agricultural Policy for England must ensure to prioritise and incentivise environmentally-friendly farming. The promised system of rewards for nature-friendly farming has, to date, only been roughly sketched out to farmers and landowners.

Custodians of the land need confidence to be able to invest in activity which, in the short term, may hurt the profitability of their farms. Cuts to the previous subsidy regime are now underway in England, and without full clarity as to what is to follow, many farming enterprises are at risk.

But as well as championing the farmer, so too should government champion the food they produce. After all, the more food the UK imports (often on high-emission planes and ships), the less control we have over the environmental standards to which such food is produced.

With a large body of evidence showing a reduction in meat consumption would be beneficial to the environment, and with such claims being backed by the National Food Strategy published earlier this summer, Ministers should encourage the market towards high standards and short supply chains. Promoting ideals of ‘better meat’ and ‘buy British’ are good places to start.

But when we do import produce, our political leaders must be strong when it comes to trading with countries whose agricultural standards do not live up to our own. In a globalised economy, we cannot avoid the fact that our interactions with other countries also impact on the climate.

For example, countries that destroy large tracts of rainforest to grow soya for livestock should be low down on the UK’s list for new trade agreements. Indeed, ending such practices should be the condition the UK places on countries seeking enhanced trading arrangements in the future.

In doing so we should take the lead in promoting and implementing regulatory frameworks that hold all parts of the supply chain to high environmental standards. Climate climbdowns, such as that seen in the UK dropping climate targets from its trade deal with Australia, cannot be allowed to become the norm.

Finally, most farmers are no longer solely focused on the business of food production, but diversifying their businesses to explore new opportunities and markets. More and more, the private sector is interested in working with land managers as part of Corporate Environmental, Social and Governance strategies. This trend is creating new environmental markets, such as carbon offsetting, bringing tremendous potential to speed up the path to net zero while also addressing biodiversity decline.

But as yet there are precious few rules around how such markets may operate. We strongly encourage the Government to take a global lead in creating a high-quality regulatory regime to govern environmental markets, giving farmers certainty and the confidence to move forward with opportunities that could both help their businesses survive, and improve the environment.

The challenge facing land managers should not be understated. Just as they are among the first to notice the impact of climate change through extreme weather events, they are also well placed to lead the fight against it.

But they can’t do it alone. People need feeding, and the environment needs rescuing. By working with farmers, the Government can prove to the world that the two can, and should, go hand-in-hand.