Significant Amount of Welsh Farming Land Being Lost to ‘Greenwashing’ Carbon Offset Projects

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Westminster’s Welsh Affairs Committee has warned that carbon offset projects, which involve mass tree planting so that major companies can claim eco-credentials, is resulting in the loss of family farms and communities.

Carbon offset schemes allow individuals and businesses to invest in environmental projects to balance out their own carbon footprints. Such companies offer to plant trees in sustainable projects around the world or in British woodland management and creation.

But concerns were raised that companies could be attempting to “game the system” by investing in farming land to offset emissions which are then lost to Welsh agriculture.

Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee Stephen Crabb MP said that farmers could find themselves “priced out” of good quality farming land as many cannot compete with the prices paid by wealthy companies for the land.

Around a fifth of Welsh farms had an income of less than zero, with an average income of £26,000 per farm, and feel that “economics are stacked against” them, he said.

Crabb said he had 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.”

British Airways was accused of “greenwashing” when a dozen farms were reportedly sold to make way for afforestation projects in Carmarthenshire, reported Wales Online in December.

Companies such as British Airways are part of a woodland creation scheme that is in place to support its net zero ambitions as well as Wales’s biodiversity recovery.

In response to such schemes, the Farmers’ Union of Wales has demanded that Welsh farmland “must not become a dumping ground for other industries and countries seeking to offset their emissions” and that “communities not corporations should be in control of Welsh land.”

Crabb added, “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,” he said.

The committee concluded by asking the Welsh Government to look at potential safeguards such as the creation of a register of carbon offset schemes so that the extent of the issue can be closely monitored.

Owen Evans

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Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.



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