By Emily Ledger
The environment – and modern society’s impact on it – has consistently made headlines over the last few years. With an increasing number of natural disasters, from uncontrollable forest and bush fires to disastrous floods around the world, the need for change has never been more clear.
Now, the global Coronavirus pandemic has added a new angle to the conversation. The slowdown of the UK economy brought with it the longest period since the Industrial Revolution in which no coal was burned.
The idea of a ‘green recovery’ from the Covid-19 pandemic took centre stage following the government’s Summer announcement and grants to champion green energy. But could hemp reform contribute to the UK’s long-awaited ‘Race to Zero‘ and the UK’s green recovery?
Hemp’s Green Credentials
- It is a great consumer of CO2 – Hemp is known to be an extremely efficient sequester of carbon. The crop absorbs more CO2 from the air than trees, with an estimated 1.63 tonnes of carbon being held per each tonne of hemp.
- It can help to improve soil quality – Hemp is a very hardy plant that can be grown in even low-quality soil. In fact, the roots even help to remove toxic chemicals and metals from the soil, and the crop was even used to help clean up the Chernobyl nuclear spill.
- It can be used to make recyclable and biodegradable products – Paper made from hemp fibre can be recycled more than twice as many times as paper from wood pulp. Hemp can also be used to make biodegradable plastics.
Expanding the UK’s hemp Industry
Despite UK law allowing the cultivation of hemp (with a license), most farmers consider the crop to be financially unviable. This is largely down to restrictions that prohibit farmers from processing the crop for CBD. Following a long history of hemp cultivation in the UK, there is now thought to be less than 900 hectares of the crop across the nation.
The Pleasant Lands campaign, recently launched by Volteface, aims to push the government to reform hemp policy. The key objective of the proposed reforms would be to allow farmers to utilise the leaves and flowers of their crops. This would create an incentive for more UK farmers to adopt the cultivation of this ‘green’ crop.
Contributing to the Green Recovery
While the Coronavirus has undoubtedly caused a crisis, from the perspective of both health and the economy, many also see an opportunity in the aftermath. As the economy recovers from the biggest hit in decades, there has been a resounding push to use this moment for the progression of a new, greener economy.
Many countries around the world have committed to sustainability measures in recent years. However, in the big picture, big industries have done little to adopt more environmentally sustainable practices.
Hemp cultivation represents an industry that could provide jobs and revenue in a new, greener future. However, the hemp industry requires a boost from significant policy reform to allow meaningful expansion. If approached seriously, hemp could contribute in a meaningful way to the UK’s green recovery.