Virgin Money launches £200m fund to help UK farmers cut emissions

A £200m fund to help UK farmers make the transition to net zero agriculture has been launched today by Virgin Money.

Dubbed the Agri E Fund, it aims to offer lower cost loans that can be used to invest in measures which reduce on-farm emissions, such as installing renewable power sources, energy efficiency initiatives and other decarbonisation efforts, according to the banking firm.

It claims the fund is the first of its kind in the UK dedicated to supporting farmers with the investment and carbon audits required to help them achieve their net zero target. The loans are available with zero per cent arrangement fees when a farmer completes a carbon audit and is borrowing over £50k.

While farming contributes approximately 10 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions, the significant land used for agriculture offers the opportunity to capture and store carbon over and above the sector’s level of emissions, helping to enable the wider economy to transition to net zero. The industry has also itself set a 2040 net zero target for farming across England and Wales.

But Virgin Money’s head of agriculture Brian Richardson said farmers needed to be “proactive in adjusting their businesses to a low carbon future”.

“While many farmers are working towards their net zero targets, we know from our research that there are many who know what they’ve got to do, they just aren’t sure how to go about it,” he said. “By providing lower cost finance, our new Agri E Fund is providing targeted support to help agri-businesses make the transition and enable investment in reducing and capturing carbon emissions.”

A survey by Virgin Money found just 35 per cent of UK farming businesses have completed a carbon audit, and the bank is therefore encouraging customers to undertake this step so they can start to move towards net zero at an early stage.

As part of the initiative, Virgin Money has partnered with Carbon Metrics, a consultancy which aims to help rural businesses better understand emissions management and auditing. It has produced an Agriculture Net Zero Report which will guide farmers to understand the background to climate change specifically relating to agriculture, what it means for the industry and how they can start to adapt their businesses to meet the challenge and plan their own business journey towards net zero, the firm explained.

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