‘Vital’ that farms prepare for climate change impacts – Kite Consulting

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Climate change resilience Food security Agriculture Livestock Dairy Sustainability Heat stress

Dairy farm businesses should plan their climate resilience strategy the same way ‘big businesses’ do, in order to tackle the impact of climate risks, a new report published by UK sustainability consultancy Kite Consulting claims.

Prepared by head of sustainability Hayley Campbell-Gibbons for Asda, one of the four major grocery chains in the UK, the report delves into how using the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) could help individual producers, processors, retailers, regulators and lenders with decision-making.

TCFD, which has been largely adopted by the UK government as the basis for implementing mandatory climate-related financial disclosures, is regarded as the most effective framework for companies to analyze, understand and disclose climate-related financial information.

Campbell-Gibbons warns that despite the impact of climate change on UK agriculture, there are no tools that farmers can use to assess farm-level climate risks and calculate business resilience.

“Currently, the only means identified of tracking and understanding emerging environmental risks affecting the food supply chain is the Defra-funded Met Office climate service on Food, Farming and Natural Environment,” the author stated. “This service focuses on the impacts of climate change on farming, with the aim of informing policymakers on the future adaptation needed in the farming sector.”

Milk processors, for example, need to consider mitigation strategies in case of shocks or significant changes in the supply of key dairy commodities. At any rate, three key questions should be considered by any farm business looking to improve its climate resilience:

  • What risks does climate change pose to my farm business now, and over the next 5 years?
  • What would be the impact of that risk be to my farm area, animals and business?
  • What adaptations and solutions might mitigate the impacts or reduce the risk?

“To be clear, this isn’t about measuring carbon footprints, or reducing on-farm emissions,” Campbell-Gibbons wrote. “This is about understanding a farm’s vulnerabilities, the threats that climate change may present, and ultimately preparing a farm business for the realities of more extremes in weather.”

The report goes on to apply TCFD at dairy farm level, from the challenges to quantifying the economic impact of climate-related events to the key metrics that could be used to assess risks. Several ‘priority risks’ are highlighted, including animal disease, heat and cold stress, the loss of soil resources and the impact of pests. A sample of a stress test on a dairy farm is also included in the report.

The research highlights that organic farmers may be more at risk of land-related climate impacts, since these can affect grazing periods and forage availability. 

“Is there a case for applying the principles of climate-related financial disclosure at farm level? Quite simply, yes,” Campbell-Gibbons concluded. “As this report shows, there are multiple and well evidenced physical and transitional risks posed by the impacts of climate change to a typical dairy farm.

“Agriculture is particularly sensitive to climatic conditions and will experience profound impacts on productivity and economic viability in response to weather related changes. There are potentially significant commercial and competitive advantages to be gained by those businesses tackling the challenges.

“Addressing risks around weather and productivity should not be sidelined or considered a strategic exercise only for large corporates. It’s a false economy for a business of any size not to understand and address them.”

TCFD On Farm: Understanding dairy farm risks and resilience in the face of climate change
Published: November 2023
Author: Hayley Campbell-Gibbons
Direct link: https://www.kiteconsulting.com/.../ASDA-TCFD-Report-Final-November-23_compressed-2.pdf

Related topics Industry Voices Sustainability

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