UK farming union presidents have called for support for a sustainable and productive future for agriculture at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow.

The four main UK farming union presidents, Minette Batters NFU, John Davies NFU Cymru, Martin Kennedy NFU Scotland and Victor Chestnutt of the Ulster Farmers’ Union call upon the UK government and the devolved administrations together with all of the leaders worldwide, to support a sustainable and productive future for agriculture. All unions agreed that we need to grow our ability to produce climate-friendly food at the same time as protecting nature and the planet.

A statement from the union said: "Agriculture in the UK is a uniquely versatile sector, which supplies food, captures and stores carbon and helps to generate clean energy. But our farmers are also on the frontline of climate change impacts, being particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events.

"We want agriculture’s role in taking action on climate change while producing for the future to be widely recognised, at COP26 and beyond.

"Our industry is also unique in the nature of its greenhouse gas emissions from food production. Farmers harness inherently variable, biological processes in our crops, livestock and soils.

"Many of our farmers and growers have already embarked upon their own journeys to net zero, but we must be supported in partnership with government and industry to produce more with less environmental impact.

"There are no ‘silver bullets’. It is vital that agriculture, land use and biodiversity policies are practical and properly funded, with a portfolio of measures across many different farm types, including a fair share of water and better protection of agricultural land from flooding.

"It is by adopting a holistic approach to farming – considering food production, biodiversity, landscapes and communities alongside climate mitigation – that will ensure a just transition to net zero farming in the future."

COP26, which brings parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, is taking place in Glasgow until Friday.

One early agreement saw the bosses of five of the UK’s biggest supermarkets promise to halve the environmental impact of a weekly food shop by the end of this decade.

Chief executives from Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Co-op and M&S said they would work with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to reduce natural destruction.

Under a pledge they will halve the amount of global warming that shopping baskets cause, the forests that are cut down to fill the baskets, the impact of the agriculture and seafood in baskets, and the food waste and packaging they produce.

Every year, the supermarkets, who together reach more than half of UK food shoppers, will submit data to WWF on each of these areas and publish their actions.

The shops also promised that before the end of next year they would set science-based targets to help keep global warming below 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures.

The targets will cover all categories of emissions – known as scopes.

“As CEOs of leading UK food retailers, we recognise that a future without nature is a future without food. By 2030 we need to halt the loss of nature,” the supermarkets agreed in a joint statement.

WWF chief executive Tanya Steele said that it will not be possible to tackle climate change and keep global warming to below 1.5C without dealing with global food supplies.

“Food production is one of the biggest threats to our planet and we will only tackle the climate and nature emergency if food retailers play their part,” she added.

“The promises these CEOs have made are game changing and we hope other food retailers will follow in their footsteps so that every shopper can be confident that the products they buy aren’t fuelling the climate crisis and pushing precious wildlife closer to the brink.”

Separately, 20 new governments have signed up to the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) dialogue forum which commits them to opening talks.

The members of FACT will discuss trade and market development, research and how to improve agriculture, as well as support for small farmers.

The membership includes Indonesia and Brazil, who have some of the world’s biggest forests.

It also includes major consuming countries, such as the UK, whose demand often causes the deforestation elsewhere.

Together the group represents 75 per cent of global trade in key commodities that threaten forests, such as palm oil, cocoa and soya.

But signing up just commits them to a “desire to open dialogue” and actions are “non-exhaustive, non-binding and do not apply in all circumstances to all countries.”

Matt Williams, an expert from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “Food and farming have largely been missing from this summit so far and are missing from many countries’ 2030 climate plans.

“This deal plants the seeds for food and farming to be considered serious parts of the route to net zero emissions.”

Another 27 countries have also signed up to a sustainable agriculture pledge to help them meet climate goals, and will reroute some agricultural subsidies towards climate goals.