Pollution: Rivers and Beaches

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Monday 30th January 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I declare my interest as a Church Commissioner in the farming industry. What attention are the Government paying to pollution as we get more and more extreme weather events, with climate change being upon us?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate is right to raise this issue. We are seeing more extremes of climate, and that is resulting in a lot of runoff into our rivers at particular times. That is why, for example, we are introducing in our environmental land management schemes a determination to use soil more effectively by binding it together with green cover crops, thus preventing it going into the rivers. I am keen to have a conversation with the Church Commissioners, one of the biggest landowners in the country, about how they are interacting with their farmers and supporting them in taking up these schemes, and about how we can work together with large and small landowners and farmers to ensure that we are improving the quality of our environment, particularly our rivers.

Climate Change and Biodiversity: Food Security

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Thursday 8th September 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I begin by adding my own compliments to the noble Baroness, Lady Willis, on what was a most excellent maiden speech. I am very much looking forward now to her deep scientific learning informing many future contributions. We need good science in this House. I also echo the sentiments of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham in the previous debate, assuring your Lordships that Her Majesty is very much in the prayers of the Lords Spiritual at this time.

I am deeply grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for securing time for us to discuss the important matters in this debate. I draw attention to my interest as set out in the register as a Church Commissioner; we are one of the largest owners of agricultural land in England.

This year we have seen unprecedented consequences of climate change, both at home in the UK and abroad: record temperatures, shifting weather patterns, rising sea levels and biodiversity loss. Climate change is alive and kicking, and we need to work together at all levels, locally, nationally and internationally, to address the crisis.

I am glad to be able to commend actions taken by the Government to address food security here in the UK. The Government’s food strategy that was published in June was a clear step in the right direction. However, much more still needs to be done to address food security across the country. Like others, I urge the Government to pay attention to the Dimbleby review, particularly its recommendations to pass new legislation to protect our food security and the environment.

As the cost of living crisis and energy bill increases bite—I do not know what the Prime Minister planned to announce today—we must ensure that we are doing all we can to guarantee food security for all. Almost all the churches in my diocese have a food bank that they are supporting. But there other things that we can do: we can invest in the transition to sustainable farming and fisheries, and we must strengthen local food systems and reduce both UK meat consumption, as the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, urged, and food waste.

I want to speak mostly beyond the UK. We need to look over the horizon to the need for global food security. The United Nations has estimated that 50 million people in 45 countries are living

“each day on the edge of famine”.

Indeed, speaking at the Global Food Security Call to Action ministerial in May this year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke of climate change’s impacts on global hunger, saying:

“Over the past decade, 1.7 billion people have been affected by extreme weather and climate-related disasters.”


As noble Lords have discussed, the impacts of climate change on food security are only going to worsen. The IPCC has said that an increase in global warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees centigrade would increase pressure on food production and access. Beyond 2 degrees, it would lead to severe food insecurity across certain regions, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Global warming beyond 3 degrees would significantly expand the areas impacted by severe food insecurity. As we have heard, these changes compound biodiversity loss, which in turn compounds food insecurity—this is a vicious spiral.

Two days ago, I returned from a trip to Namibia. I have been visiting churches and communities in that diocese because we in the diocese of Manchester have the pleasure of being twinned with it. The majority of Namibia’s population depend, directly or indirectly, on the agricultural sector. It is estimated that the mean annual temperature will go up by 2.7 degrees in the next few years and that annual precipitation will decrease by 7%. This is likely to cause longer droughts, increased heatwaves and greater flooding, and implications for the agriculture sector in the country are obvious—food production is already being destabilised.

Namibia is a semi-arid country; the soil in many places is almost like the sand on a beach. It is highly dependent on grazing animals that can survive through the long dry season on its marginal grasslands. Namibia is probably one of the few countries where I would struggle to maintain my meat-free diet. Sadly, poor rains in the last few years have increased the numbers of people who have lost their cattle. Many have been forced to migrate, particularly from the rural north to the capital, Windhoek. This has created huge pressure on services in the city, led to increased numbers of people living in wholly unacceptable conditions—these have to be seen, heard and smelled—and raised the number of people, especially young men, who lack meaningful employment. Elsewhere, as noble Lords are well aware, such factors have been observed to put social harmony and cohesion at risk.

My diocese is also twinned with the diocese of Lahore in Pakistan, and it has been heart-wrenching to see and hear of the devastating impacts of climate change there. Noble Lords will have seen that more than 33 million people have been displaced from their homes by the recent floods, which cover more than one-third of the country. Huge swathes of farmland, crops and stockpiles have been destroyed, while supplies of rice, vegetables and wheat have been severely disrupted.

These are just two countries—two I happen to know well—among many whose food security is already being negatively impacted by a climate crisis for which they are not primarily responsible. I hope that, in this debate, the Minister will be able to assure us that Her Majesty’s Government will use all their influence and powers, not least to uphold the pledges made at the COP 26 summit to address the challenges of adaptation, loss and damage. It is essential that we all take responsibility, not just individually but collectively, for our part in climate change and biodiversity loss, and that we act to stop them now to ensure a more food-secure future for us all. Let this debate be a significant step in that direction.

Food Strategy White Paper

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Thursday 7th July 2022

(2 years ago)

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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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The Government recognise the importance of free school meals for those parts of the population that are on low incomes. That is why eligibility to no recourse to public funds families has been announced. We will continue to support families whose children require free school meals.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, the National Food Strategy that was produced last year found that the UK’s current appetite for meat was unsustainable and that the intake needed to fall by 30% within 10 years to help the environment. I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify what role exists for vegetarian and vegan food in the Government’s strategy. It does not appear to be set out, not least when it comes to aligning with the Government’s net-zero strategy.

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I think farming and perhaps also the Government have failed to make the argument between good meat and bad meat. Bad meat is grown on feed lots at a high carbon price to society and damages those farmers who are producing good-quality meat on grass-based systems. That is what we want to encourage. We want sustainable production of meat. We hear what the Climate Change Committee says on the amount of meat that people should eat. We want people to make their own choices but be given the right information on which to make those choices. Vegan diets can sometimes be very damaging to the climate because the materials are sometimes grown where rainforests used to be.