Climate change report sees farmers and crofters playing their part

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Scotland’s farmers and crofters must be recognised as part of the solution to delivering on the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) ‘net-zero’ target according to NFU Scotland.

The report published today on May 2 states that Scotland has greater potential to remove emissions from its economy than the UK overall, and can credibly adopt a more ambitious target of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 2045.  The CCC’s recommendation covers all sectors of the Scottish economy.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: ‘The CCC recommendation that Scotland can achieve net-zero emissions by 2045 is era-changing and a huge moment in the climate change debate for Scotland’s farmers and crofters.

‘It is now extremely likely that the Scottish Government will adopt this recommendation and emission target, and look to all sectors of society and industry, including food and farming, to play their part in delivering. That will require massive change within Scottish agriculture.

‘Our farmers and crofters are green by nature, we are starting from a very good place and we will work with the government to help the industry become a world leader in low carbon farming.

‘Our farmers and crofters are on the front line in experiencing the impacts of climate change. They are increasingly having to adapt to changing weather patterns and increased volatility in order to maintain their businesses and still put high quality food on the table.

‘They take their environmental responsibilities incredibly seriously and continue to adopt practical, workable solutions and improvements to the challenge of climate change. Agriculture is a source of greenhouse gas emissions, and farmers and crofters are a big part of the solution in helping tackle the collective challenge that we face.

‘In our “Steps to Change” document, looking at future support arrangements for Scottish farming post-Brexit, we give serious consideration as to how measures such as improving soil health, managing slurries and manures, and targeting inputs to improve soil carbon storage as routes to reducing emissions might be supported in the future.

‘In addition to what can be achieved through new agricultural policies, government must also invest in helping the industry and place greater emphasis on advice and support.  As an example, the current Farming for a Better Climate (FFBC) scheme, designed to assist farmers and crofters in identifying actions that can improve productivity, save money and reduce emissions works well, but is significantly under-resourced.

‘For government to deliver on its part, there is a strong justification for enhancing this type of funding and initiative in the future, in order to incentivise further take-up of these practices.

‘Reducing agricultural emissions in Scotland will be fundamentally challenging to businesses but need not be at the expense of producing food, cutting livestock numbers or exporting our emissions by relying on food imports.

‘Policymakers in this area understand Scotland is unique.  Our landscape and climate mean that much of Scotland’s farmland is unploughable and unsuitable for crops other than grass. However, that grass is readily converted by Scotland’s cattle and sheep into fresh, tasty meat and milk while delivering the many environmental and economic benefits of grass-fed beef, dairy and sheep production.

‘It remains our concern that while Scottish farming already plays an important role in reducing emissions, the way our agriculture is represented in the greenhouse gas inventory and reporting structures does farming a serious disservice, ignoring the key environmental role farmers and crofters in Scotland provide.  That is something we believe must be urgently addressed as this debate continues.

‘If net zero targets are to be laid in legislation, there is now an opportunity for government and organisations to work together to set the agenda. To secure the facts, NFUS is planning to work with Scottish research institutions to establish a fellowship to capture what is currently understood about agricultural emissions in Scotland and to communicate that information in a user-friendly way to key industry stakeholders in order to create a solid platform from which to move forward.’