The topic of climate change and agriculture makes all sort of headlines in the media. The lack of nuance appears to make people think there are only two options: keep things as they are or get rid of all livestock, keep things as they are or rewild the whole of Scotland. Yes, there has to be change but does it have to be either/or? What is missing in the debate is where changes can be made at the moment.
WWF’s Scotland office published a report “Delivering on NetZero” earlier this year showing that Scottish Agriculture could reduce it’s emissions by changing on-farm activities and before any massive land use change. Sheila George sits on the Farming for 1.5°C panel and asked the panel for input to this report while its data was being gathered. Nigel Miller, Co-chair of the Inquiry said:
“WWF Scotland has created an evidence-based report which will inject much needed positive momentum to the climate change debate which hangs over Scotland’s farmed area. Conventional climate change models for agriculture have been built on two land use priorities; the sustainable intensification of agriculture and the freeing up of land for sequestration through higher levels of tree cover. Those two extreme land use categories will play a role in securing both food security and sequestration. However, a third way built on multifunctional eco-farming, as mapped out by WWF, opens the door to multiple benefits and should be a component of Scotland’s land use mix post 2045.”
The data shows that emission reductions of as much as 38% by 2045 can be achieved and that is only when expecting some farmers to alter some of their farming methods. If all Scottish farmers took on board the recommendations for things like better nutrient use management, improved animal health and breeding, rotational grazing and using legumes the potential for Scottish agriculture to lead the world is huge. Biodiversity can be supported further by integrating agroforestry on-farm - providing important habitats and resilience to changeable weather. System level changes such as organic farming was also singled out as a way forward.
The launch of the report also reminds us how farmers and land managers are already on the front line of dealing with the impacts of climate change. We cannot blame any one weather event on climate change but the weather of 2017-2018 cost Scottish farmers £161 million in livestock losses and lower crop yields.
Have a read of the report yourself here