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"Net Zero or Feeding Ourselves? We Can’t Do Both" says Jeremy Clarkson

"In one day me and my tractor produce more greenhouse gases than India, Brazil and China combined"

The world's most famous farmer reveals the hard truth about what will happen if we continue down the net zero path; we'll all starve to death.

When you look back over the past 14 years of Conservative rule, it’s hard to pick out the single biggest mistake. Truss and the Brexit referendum are certainly up there, but I’m going to have a stab and suggest it was the moment they decided that strong economic growth and net zero weren’t mutually exclusive.

They are. If you have to go through life producing no carbon dioxide, it means you will be cold, lonely, poor, unhappy and covered in weeping sores. The sun and the tide and the wind sound like a triple-headed nirvana, but to harness them properly you need an army of bright young things to work out how. And we don’t have that because our army of bright young things are either glued to the road or arguing about the meaning of a penis or rushing about with a keffiyeh on their head. No one is sitting in a lab playing with pipettes and thermodynamics.

You get a sense that the current leadership understands this, which is why they pushed the target date for net zero back and allowed oil companies to do more drilling in the North Sea. It’s also why Mr Rishi has been talking recently about the importance of food security. He’s dead right. It’s very important that we have the ability to feed ourselves, but we simply cannot do that when the main mission is to achieve net zero.

It’s like smoking, drinking and partying. You can do that or you can live to be a hundred. It’s either/or. You can’t do both.

Ever since I bought my farm back in 2008 we have used weedkillers to keep the weeds at bay. But weedkiller is now extremely expensive and possibly not that good for us, so this year we ploughed some of the fields. This old-fashioned system means the soil is turned over, so the weeds are buried and, owing to a lack of sunshine, die.

That sounds rustic and bucolic and lovely, but I did some maths the other day and worked out that when it was pulling an eight-farrow plough, my tractor was using a gallon of diesel to cover 100 yards. You read that right. A gallon for 100 yards. That’s a lot of carbon. Plus, the soil is a huge carbon sink and when I turn it over some of that carbon escapes. So in one day I produced more greenhouse gases than India, Brazil and China combined. Greta Thunberg would have been furious with me, were she not in a cell for protesting about Palestine. It seems she has decided that that’s more important than climate change these days.

Whatever, there is then the question of fertiliser. I could use chemicals but they are bad for the soil and, we are told, bad for the nation’s streams and rivers. It’s better and cheaper, therefore, to use cow muck. But that means keeping cows and that, again, is a global warming no-no apparently because of their endless burping and farting.

I know I’ve written about these dilemmas before, and I will do again because it’s important the people who need food understand that farming is either kind to the sky or kind to the soil. You choose. I have, and the sky can eff-off.

So let’s get back to the food security issue. Because this country signed up to an international agreement to achieve net zero at some point in the future — point located just after the last person who signed it has died — I’ve been told that I can have government subsidies only if I do environmental work.

There are pages and pages and pages of rules and regulations on this, and I’ll be honest I haven’t read many (any) of them because that’s Cheerful Charlie’s job. But what I do know is that this year the biggest field on the farm is being used to grow a herbal ley called GS4. And all you need to know about this is: you can’t eat it.

The second biggest field has been given over to rye grass and you can’t eat that either. But the government pays me to do this because less farming is needed, which means I’m producing less carbon dioxide. And I’m helping to replenish the nitrogen content of the soil. Which I approve of.

It’s why, in the regen field I handed over to Andy Cato from Groove Armada’s Wildfarmed project last year, we are growing a beige plant with a Latin name. Naturally you can’t eat it, but power stations can.

All this means that perhaps 20 per cent of my farm is not producing any food this year. I know of other farmers who’ve put 60 per cent into environmental schemes. And all of this is tremendous if you are a global warming enthusiast. It frees you up to go on more marches. But what if you want a sandwich?

Ah well, the ingredients for that will have to be imported from a country where they either haven’t heard of Greta Thunberg or they have but they realise it’s silly to take scientific advice from someone who has barely been to school.

And what’s the point of that? Climate change is a planetary problem, and it won’t make any difference if a small rock in the North Atlantic simply exports its CO2 emissions to Peru. Actually, it will. Because we will have to ship all our food over here and that will actually increase global emissions.

And that’s before we address the security issues. Yes, we can reduce farming in the UK and import our food. That’s what happened in the 1930s. The government of the time said they wanted workers in the factories, not the fields, and we’d get our food from abroad. Then the U-boats came and we all nearly starved to death. So what if there’s another war, or another pandemic, and all I’m growing is nitrogen and electricity?

It’s the same story on the roads. Net zero means people are being herded into cars that don’t really work as cars. Lisa’s new Range Rover, for instance, has an air-conditioning system that’s pretty much useless, and while I accept this is possibly because it’s broken, I’m more inclined to think it’s operating on reduced power because of net zero-inspired rules.

So here’s what I’d do. Accept that human beings need to produce carbon dioxide and use the money saved on funding research into technology. Lure all our bright young things back into the lab to work on ways we can deal with the problem, rather than going backwards in a vague, King Canute-like hope that the problem will go away.

This article was originally published in the Sunday Times.

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