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Our chairman’s 2020 festive message

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As I write this from Tier 3 Lockdown Lincolnshire, who would have believed that after all of the drama of last year, it would be capped by something so much more dramatic this year! 2019, floods; 2020, plague; 2021, swarms? Well, let’s hope not, but who knows what lies in store?

At Terravesta our collective hearts and best wishes go out to all of those whose lives and businesses have been impacted by Coronavirus in any way.

Despite the impact of the extreme weather on our harvests, most of us in agriculture will be thankful that we have been able to carry on, doing what we do, even when others have been much less fortunate.

Sitting between agriculture and power generation, life at Terravesta has been as busy as ever in a face-mask wearing, working-from-home sort of way. The team have adapted brilliantly, and I would like to thank them for responding so positively to the challenge! For many this change will be permanent, and hopefully more so than the wretched virus! Our office needs have changed, and in recognition of that we will be moving to new premises in the New Year.

The other big change, and one that has particularly affected me, has been the lack of overseas travel, while at the same time continuing to grow and develop our activities abroad, including two projects in Africa. This is testimony to the strength of our many collaboration partners and our own international team in Poland, the Canaries, Italy and Moldova, the fruits of whose work is vital to further developing the expansion of Miscanthus in the UK. It is also, of course, made possible by the power of internet conferencing and the global power of IT, with all of the opportunities and threats that come with it.

Indeed, it is undoubtedly the ease and regularity of affordable air travel, that has shrunk the world to the level of “Global village” over the last half century, that has set up the perfect conditions for the fearsome rate of spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. Can we, and have we, taken any lessons from this, and if so, how will we socially interact with people from other parts of our world?

I believe that to some extent we have. The stay-at-home culture of this year has instigated a generous appreciation of key workers – primarily those in our health service, but also those who keep food on the shelves, and that includes our farmers – together with a sense of loyalty to British business. But I think it runs deeper still. Climate and environment awareness has already been raised and popularised by the likes of Thunberg and Attenborough, but, in case that wasn’t enough, the life changing impact felt by all from the Coronavirus pandemic drives home the overwhelming power of nature and the fragility of all society in the face of it. Respect for our environment and our planet is at a high, and that makes it a vote winner.

Small wonder, then, that alongside Brexit (Deal or No Deal?) Climate change sits at the top of the agenda in the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Environment,  Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Adding to the pressure is Britain’s hosting of the COP26 UN Climate Change Summit in November 2021 which is driving a need to show leadership and “Get things done.”  

During the year the Government opened consultation on it’s Biomass Strategy, which will report in 2022, while in the last week, the Climate Change Committee delivered its Sixth Carbon Budget which sets out a significant role for Bioenergy Carbon Capture & Storage (BECCS), which identifies the need for 700,000ha of fast-growing perennial biomass crops to achieve the Net Zero 2050 commitment. Also, within the last week the Government published an Energy White Paper which commits to establishing 4 CCUS (Carbon Capture Underground Storage) hubs to ensure that the infrastructure is in place.

The  cereal harvest shortfall has inevitably impacted our power station partners and underlines the need for contracted dedicated perennial biomass crops in place of seasonally variable agricultural crop residues. They are keenly and actively seeking new Miscanthus crop area.

Taking all of this together 2020 has seen very exciting progress in our determination to address climate change, and possibly pivotal in terms of public will and understanding. The last decade has been about the debate, the 2020’s are about action – laying the foundations necessary to develop the carbon neutral/negative technologies and lifestyle adaptations. Within this, very fast growing, very auditable carbon negative biomass feedstocks will have a very significant role, and of those, Miscanthus is a prominent leader.

We must use the run up to COP 26 well to ensure that perennial biomass crops get the necessary policy recognition that will be required to meet the challenging scale up of crop that is required. As we leave the EU and start to shape our own agriculture policies, there never has been a more important time to inform policy makers, friends and neighbours, and tell a good news story about this wonderful crop. It will be really important that every grower does their bit!

In the meantime, on behalf of all at Terravesta, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and an “Uneventful 2021”, and thank you all for your forbearance in a year of very challenging conditions for all!