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Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting our Emissions Reduction Targets 2013-2027 - The Draft Second Report on Proposals and Policies


9. Rural land use

9.1.1 In this chapter, the term 'rural land use' covers agriculture and related land use, peatland restoration and forestry. Emissions in these sectors come from livestock, agricultural soils, animal wastes and certain land use changes. Importantly, some biological processes also have the capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and store carbon in soils and vegetation.

9.2 Our ambitions for rural land use

9.2.1 Our 2009 transformational outcome was to develop a comprehensive approach to ensure that carbon (including the cost of carbon) is fully factored into strategic and local decisions about rural land use through: appropriate protection for Scotland's carbon rich soils; minimising emissions from agricultural and other land use businesses; encouraging the sequestration of carbon, for example, through woodland planting; and the use of natural resources to generate renewable energy.

9.2.2 In RPP1 we set out process and outcome milestones for supporting emissions reduction:

  • Completion in 2011 of research on behaviour change in agriculture and the development of indicators to measure progress in reducing agricultural emissions.
  • Incorporation of wetland management data into the net Scottish emissions account to enable peatland restoration to be counted towards Scotland's climate change targets.
  • Increase the rate of new woodland creation to an average of 10,000 hectares per year from 2015 onwards.

9.2.3 As we move towards 2027 and beyond, low carbon actions that might seem innovative now should be commonplace across the rural land use sector:

  • By 2027 land managers will have further optimised the productive use of natural resources, producing food and delivering public goods, such as protecting the natural environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
  • With our partners, we are working to ensure that Scotland's peatlands will be managed in ways that conserve their substantial carbon stores and biodiversity. Where peatlands have been damaged, action will be taken to prevent further damage and where practicable to restore them to a favourable condition in which they are no longer a source of greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • We will create 100,000 hectares of new woodland by 2022, and agree targets for subsequent years by 2020.

9.3 Where we are now

9.3.1 Approximately 80% of Scotland is used for agricultural purposes.[188] In 2010, emissions from agriculture and related land use accounted for 19% of total Scottish emissions; 10.5MtCO2e, a decrease of 3.8 MtCO2e, or 26.6%, from 1990[189].

9.3.2 Peatlands cover about 20% of Scotland, some 1.7 million hectares, much of which have been drained or damaged in the past. They contain an estimated 1,600 million tonnes of carbon. It is estimated that 47,000 hectares of peatland have benefited from restoration measures since 1990, giving an annual saving that would amount to 0.02 MtCO2e by 2027.[190]

9.3.3 Scotland has some 1.4 million hectares of woodland, which equates to roughly 18% of total land area. Scotland's woodland sequestered a net total of 9.6 MtCO2e in 2010. Without this, total Scottish emissions would have been 17% higher. However, following a period of low historic rates of woodland planting, net carbon sequestration rates are currently reducing year on year due to the lower proportion of young trees in Scottish forests[191].

9.4 Decarbonisation policies

9.4.1 Our approach to reducing emissions from the rural land use sector is guided by our Land Use Strategy[192] which sets out three objectives relating to the economy, environment and communities. These support an integrated approach to managing the competing demands we place on our land resource, seeking to balance a productive land based sector and successful tourism and leisure industry, with the vital role that our land plays in maintaining Scotland's rich biodiversity and in storing carbon.


9.4.2 Emissions from the rural land use sector, particularly in agriculture, are dominated by methane and nitrous oxide rather than CO2, but the term "decarbonisation" is used in this report as general shorthand for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The transition to low-emissions agriculture is being be aided by a number of linked initiatives developed and supported by the Scottish Government, as well as by industry-led action:

  • research provides innovative and sustainable solutions and advice on improving efficiency and reducing emissions from farming systems;
  • advisory initiatives promote sustainable farm practices focussing on resource efficiency will advise on cross-cutting benefits of on-farm action; and
  • support mechanisms like the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) aid uptake of sustainability measures in agriculture.

9.4.3 RPP1 described our ambition to influence farming and land management practices through a programme of best practice advice and demonstration. Our Farming For A Better Climate programme is designed to encourage voluntary uptake of win-win actions in five key areas:

  • farm energy and fuel efficiency;
  • renewable energy generation;
  • locking carbon into soils and vegetation;
  • optimised fertiliser and manure management; and
  • optimised livestock management through improved breeding and feeding practices.

9.4.4 Given the cost effectiveness of the measures in Farming for a Better Climate, we anticipate that better information provision will increase voluntary uptake by around 50% (from starting level) for most of the measures. Some of the livestock measures, particularly those relating to improved breeding practices, may experience lower uptake in the short term due to learning barriers that may make time to overcome.

Putting Farming for a Better Climate into practice

Farming for a Better Climate (FFBC) provides best practice information, including practical tutorials and workshops on four 'climate change focus farms' to showcase steps under the FFBC key action areas. It allows visiting farmers to see how the individual measures are being implemented on the focus farm, what business benefits these bring and consider how these might work on their own farms. In addition to the focus farms, farmer meetings and events are held across Scotland on working farms to demonstrate steps other farmers are already taking to reduce emissions. Examples of measures taken on the climate change focus farms include:

Ross Paton, Organic Dairy Farmer, Nr Castle Douglas

After benchmarking energy use in the dairy, Ross Paton identified a number of ways to reduce electricity use. One of the measures, retrofitting variable speed control on vacuum pumps in the dairy, could save around £5,500 over 10 years based on current energy prices.

Robert and Jac Neill, Beef and Arable, Nr Jedburgh

Linking GIS technology to soil sampling has allowed Robert and Jac Neill to accurately assess nutrient requirements across the farm. Precision fertiliser application will allow optimum use of nutrients and lead to improved efficiency and profitability through more uniform yields, whilst at the same time nitrous oxide emissions are reduced.

Neil and Linsey Butler, Mixed Dairy Farm, Nr Perth

Improved use of clover in silage fields, tailoring application of manures based on soil analyses and topping up with nitrogen, associated savings in fuel use are just some of the measures Neil and Linsey are implementing. Savings could be in the region of £10,000 with no loss of production.

David Houstoun, Upland Beef and Sheep Farmer, Nr Blairgowrie

Following analysis of pit silage, David was able to feed concentrates to his 1,042 ewes two weeks later than usual, and reduce the amount of feed for the remaining six weeks based on silage quality. This was a saving of just under £3,000 and nearly five tonnes of carbon with no loss of production from the farm.

9.4.5 Estimates of uptake have been taken from published work[193] on behavioural responses to incentives, taking into account issues such as acceptability and costs of implementation. We are developing a monitoring framework, and we intend to survey farmers in 2013 to measure progress towards meeting uptake targets. The information we gather will inform our decision on whether regulation is necessary to secure sufficient emission savings, as discussed further in our proposals outlined in section 9.5 below.

9.4.6 Advisory activities such as FFBC and Future Proofing Scotland's Farming[194] also promote the uptake of adaptation measures, which help to increase the resilience of agriculture to climate change.

Peatland Restoration

9.4.7 When peatlands are drained or otherwise disturbed, they are liable to lose carbon through oxidation to form CO2. Where they are in good condition, or restoration has resulted in the re-growth of sphagnum moss, they can sequester CO2. In RPP1 we recognised that peatlands should be conserved and where practicable restored. The Land Use Strategy also recognised the potential importance of peatlands in climate change mitigation.

9.4.8 Little drainage of peatland has been carried out in Scotland in the past two decades. Historical data about areas of restored peatland is limited, and projections of the emissions abatement potential of peatland may also be subject to revision in light of developing scientific knowledge and the outcomes of the IPCC process.

9.4.9 It is our policy to incorporate this activity, plus the on-going restoration work across Scottish peatlands, within Scottish emissions accounting. There is already funding for peatland conservation measures, such as moorland management, and restoration, such as peat dams, in the Rural Priorities part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme. However the rate of restoration activity needs to be stepped up. We have announced funding of £1.7million for peatland restoration from 2012 to 2015.

9.4.10 We intend to assess the effects of these measures with a view to developing an enhanced approach to peatland restoration where possible as described further in paragraphs 9.5.9-11 below.

Emissions accounting for peatlands

The effects of drainage or of restoration to avert such effects are not included in the current Scottish Greenhouse Gas Inventory unless land use change is involved. However, at the 2011 UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, agreement was reached on the principle of allowing countries to include the effects of wetland management (which includes peatland restoration) since 1990 within their greenhouse gas emissions reporting.

The Scottish Government hosted a meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Technical Group in 2012. This was part of the IPCC's programme to develop Technical Guidelines for the inclusion of wetland management within national greenhouse gas inventories. Hosting the meeting provided Scottish organisations with opportunities to showcase examples of peatland restoration. The IPCC's Technical Guidelines are expected in mid-2013 and this internationally validated methodology for estimating carbon benefits will assist us in making informed decisions about further action on peatlands. The emissions estimates used in this draft RPP2 are the best available at this time and will be shared with the IPCC Technical Group to help inform their deliberations.


9.4.11 During the 1970s and 1980s there was a period of major forest expansion which declined in the 1990s and 2000s. As the average age of Scotland's forests has increased, the quantity of CO2 that they are able to remove from the atmosphere has reduced. We are taking action to reverse this trend. As a result of improvements to the Scotland Rural Development Programme and activity on the national forest estate, new woodland creation nearly doubled between 2009 -10 and 2010 -11, from 2,700 hectares to 5,100 hectares. A further significant increase was achieved in 2011-12 with a rise to 9,000 hectares.

9.4.12 In RPP1 we committed to boosting the rate of new woodland creation to 10,000 hectares per year from 2015 onwards. Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) is continuing to promote this policy and administer grant support. Forest Enterprise Scotland is delivering afforestation on the National Forest Estate. New forest carbon regulatory mechanisms such as the Woodland Carbon Code[195] will be facilitated by FCS and governed in partnership with industry stakeholders.

9.5 Our decarbonisation proposals

9.5.1 The following Scottish proposals are being developed or are under consideration by Scottish Ministers.


9.5.2 One of the areas with the greatest potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture is to optimise the use of nitrogen-based fertilisers and manures because excess fertiliser and fertiliser applied at the wrong time reacts with air and water to form nitrous oxide.

9.5.3 Our Farming for a Better Climate programme seeks to encourage best practice in nitrogen efficiency, emphasising the win-win nature, and the benefits to water and air quality of many of the steps that farmers and land managers can take.

9.5.4 The aim is to achieve a 90% uptake of nitrogen efficiency measures. We will keep this voluntary framework under review and, depending on the progress that is achieved, will consider whether measures to regulate nitrogen fertiliser use are also needed. Those farmers who adopt efficiency measures early will not be penalised by a regulatory approach. Rather, early adopters will benefit from greater farm business savings. Any action would of course also be sensitive to the level of emissions per unit of food produced. Cutting emissions in a way that could risk undermining Scotland's food-producing sector, at a time when global population and demand for food are growing, is not the way forward.

9.5.5 Developments in technology will influence farming practices in the time period to 2027. Some measures which seem costly and/or impractical today could become widespread in the future. Although it is not possible to predict precisely, a judgement can be made of which measures may be a implemented within the industry post-2020.

9.5.6 For example, a combination of an increased uptake of livestock management measures that ensure the maximum production from each animal, along with increased uptake of anaerobic digestion technology to transform animal waste into electricity and heat could contribute additional abatement in 2027.

9.5.7 Modern approaches to the use of forage legumes, such as white clover, red clover and lucerne, as well as grain legumes, have the potential to reduce emissions by lessening the amount of inorganic nitrogen needed. The development of precision agricultural technology, such as the use of GPS, may also influence farming practices. We estimate that these activities could contribute approximately 0.3 MtCO2e of additional abatement in 2027.

9.5.8 However, we acknowledge that many of the factors that will influence this outcome are largely outside the control of government, such as the pace of technological progress and the price of inputs such as oil and fertiliser. Given the number of variables, these measures are classed as proposals in this report. However, we will work with industry to consider how best opportunities such as these might be maximised.

Peatland restoration

9.5.9 We want to maximise the ecosystem and emissions benefits that restoring degraded peatland can achieve. This is an area where the science is developing, and new evidence could lead to changes in the estimated benefits, as well as the associated financial costs of carrying out restoration work.

9.5.10 We are working with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to develop a Peatland Plan. The Plan will encourage partnerships with private land interests as well as action based on land designated for protection or land that is owned or managed by public bodies or environmental NGOs. Depending on the final methodology (see 'Emissions Accounting for Peatland' in the box following paragraph 9.4.10 above) and on-going work to assess the scope for projects in Scotland, it may be possible to achieve significantly greater levels of annual peatland restoration than at present. For example, if the restoration rate were increased to 21,000 hectares per annum, which would be technically feasible, abatement of 0.5MtCO2e per year could be achieved by 2027.

9.5.11 With this technical potential in mind, the Scottish Government and SNH will be working with interested parties, represented in the Peatland Working Group (convened by the Moorland Forum). However, achieving substantial increases in the area of peatland restored will depend on collaboration with land managers. In this way, it should be possible to bring about substantial increases in the funding, both public and private, for peatland restoration. One development under consideration is a Peatland Carbon Code, which could reflect the success of the Woodland Carbon Code.


9.5.12 Since the publication of RPP1, Forestry Commission Scotland has continued to investigate the potential for emissions abatement by increasing the amount of Scottish timber used in the construction and refurbishment of buildings. The Committee on Climate Change has identified timber in construction as a cost effective carbon abatement technology and in its Bioenergy Review[196] it published a carbon hierarchy which placed timber in construction at the top of that hierarchy.

9.5.13 Timber has the lowest embodied energy of any mainstream building material and has the potential to deliver a wide range of benefits, from the substitution impacts of replacing more energy intensive materials, to the market opportunities presented by increased demand for Scottish timber (which in turn would help to incentivise investment in woodland creation) and the future scope for production in Scotland of wood products for export. Forestry Commission Scotland is working with Scottish Enterprise, Napier University and a range of SME's on a Wood Products Innovation Gateway research programme aimed at developing and commercialising wood products, processes and systems utilising Scottish timber. A key project is exploring the potential for manufacturing cross-laminated timber panels using Scottish soft wood.

9.5.14 Achieving these kinds of outcomes over the long-term will require more than simply promoting the benefits of timber as a construction material. The potential role of planning, building standards and building design will be considered, as must issues of competitiveness and the need to avoid perverse incentives that might encourage use of timber in inappropriate circumstances. Work also needs to be undertaken to ensure that emissions abatement can be estimated effectively, avoiding double counting.

9.5.15 Given the transformation required in both policy and practice, estimates for potential emission abatement from this proposal do not commence until 2022. However, as we develop this work we will accelerate progress wherever possible.

Additional technical potential from low carbon land use

Modelling work suggest that there is an additional technical abatement potential of approximately 0.75 MtCO2e in 2027 from changes to land use involving measures such as restoration of peatlands and investment in woodland creation (e.g. Woodlands In and Around Towns). There may also be potential for adoption of additional low carbon agricultural practices. These changes will deliver emissions abatement and wider environmental benefits in 2025-27. We intend to produce a detailed proposal in RPP3 on how we may realise this potential over the period 2025-27.

9.6 Supporting and enabling measures

9.6.1 Together with the other UK administrations, the Scottish Government is supporting research projects to improve the accuracy and resolution of the part of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory that estimates emissions from agriculture, land use, land use change and forestry.[197] The outcome of this work will be advanced greenhouse gas emission factors and farm practice data with which to calculate a more accurate emissions baseline and better forecast the outcomes of proposed policy measures. With an improved inventory and evidence base, the agriculture and other land use industries will be better equipped to assess progress, and focus emission reduction activity where it is needed and most effective.

9.6.2 We are also working with the other UK Administrations to reduce and eventually phase out the use of peat in horticulture. Three million cubic metres of peat a year are sold in the UK, most of it imported. Scotland's share is estimated to be 10%. 500,000 cubic metres of peat were extracted in Scotland in 2009 (the output varies with the dryness of the summer), and the effects are counted as part of Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to 0.1 Mt CO2e. If such peat were to be sourced from other countries, the quantity extracted would be recorded elsewhere; real improvement requires the marketing and distribution of alternatives to peat in horticulture. Sites from which peat has been extracted can be restored in many cases, but this may require work over several years.

9.6.3 In response to the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group's recommendations (see paragraph 9.6.9 below) and building on improvements in planning guidance such as FCS's 'Right Tree in the Right Place'[198] (2010), a series of regional and sub-regional approaches to understanding woodland creation constraints and opportunities are being piloted in partnership with local authorities and other public sector bodies. Alongside this, there will be an enhanced role for Regional Forestry Forums in providing FCS and local authorities with advice. This will include opportunities for implementation of Forestry and Woodland Strategies as well as the implications of woodland creation for other land-based objectives.

9.6.4 In recent times, Scotland's trees have been faced with anincreaseinthe instances of newpests and diseases. Advice from Forest Research indicates that climate change may create the conditions for even more pest and disease activity and these heightened threats require us to take astrategic approach to forest and tree health given the importance of woodlands for carbon storage and to the commercial timber sector. Action is being coordinated across the UK as part of the Forestry Commission's Biosecurity Strategy. [199] This aims to preserve the health and vitality of our forests, trees and woodlands by excluding, detecting and responding to existing and new pests, whether of native or exotic origin.

9.6.5 The wood fuel market for renewable power and heat has developed rapidly over the last five years largely because of support for biomass electricity and combined heat and power (CHP) plants under the Renewable Obligation (RO) Scotland. TheRenewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is now providing significant support for the installation of biomass heat (and CHP plants) in commercial, industrial and public buildingswith a household RHI to follow in 2013. We are providing additional impetus to the uptake of the RHI and encouraging better woodland management on the back ofincreased demand for wood fuelthrough regional wood fuel forums.

Review of woodland creation rates

9.6.6 In RPP1 we proposed that it might be appropriate to increase new woodland planting rates towards 15,000 hectares per year. This was subject to a number of conditions. In response to Proposal 7 in the Land Use Strategy, the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group (WEAG), with members representing the interests of agriculture, forestry, communities andthe environment, was established to provide the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment with advice identifying which types of land are best for tree planting in Scotland, in the context of other land-based objectives The WEAG published its report in 2012.[200] It endorsed our policy of increasing the woodland creation rate to 10,000 hectares per year, recommending that the focus of activity should be on creating 100,000 hectares of new woodland between 2012 and 2022.

9.6.7 The WEAG also recommended that there should be a review, initiated no later than 2020 in order to set targets beyond 2022. We have accepted these recommendations. The need to achieve our ambitious greenhousegasemission reductions targets should be a key factor in the review. For the purpose of estimating emissions abatement in this draft RPP2, our calculations are based on a continuation of the current 10,000 hectare per year policy and do not include projections for either an increased rate of 15,000 hectares per year, nor any reduced rate.

9.7 Costs and benefits

9.7.1 Improving efficiency of agriculture and related land use systems will yield financial benefits as well as supporting the transition to a low carbon economy. Due to the cost effective nature of those measures promoted by Farming for a Better Climate, the policy is estimated to result in overall reduction in costs to farm businesses of around £240 million (undiscounted over the period to 2027). These savings arise largely from productivity increases resulting from improved efficiency in input use.

9.7.2 A change to more efficient farm practices will not only reduce emissions, but will result in farm business savings and make businesses more resilient. In many cases, improvements to water and air quality, as well as biodiversity and longer-term sustainability will also have been achieved through farming which is more integrated with wider land management practices.

9.7.3 With cost savings and emissions reductions, the overall cost effectiveness of the FFBC works out on an undiscounted basis, at approximately £160 per tonne of saved emissions. Increasing the uptake of the fertiliser efficiency measures as proposed will lead to further savings as uptake increases: The overall cost effectiveness of the proposal (undiscounted with no allowance for policy costs) is estimated to be around £90/tCO2e, i.e. a saving of £90 per tonne of saved emissions.

9.7.4 The cost of an enhanced peatland (optimised current) restoration programme of 6,500 ha/year is estimated at approximately £5 million a year, the larger part of which would be from public funds; if this was to be tripled to some 20,000 hectares a year, the cost would be around £15 million per year. There should be some private sector expenditure, for instance for projects part-funded through the SRDP.

9.7.5 Peatlands in good condition provide many ecosystem benefits. They include sites for wildlife and are valued for biodiversity. Blanket bog is protected under the Habitats Directive and is included in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as Priority Habitat. Lowland raised bogs are less common in Scotland and many are greatly valued by their local communities, such as Langlands Moss (East Kilbride) and Blawhorn Moss, administered by Scottish Natural Heritage. Peatlands retain and filter water, thus providing benefits for both the flow and quality of water. They are valued for leisure activities, landscape and tourism.

The Milton of Mathers Woodland Project

Forest Carbon[201]has developed a new woodland at Milton of Mathers near St Cyrus in Aberdeenshire on behalf of the arable farming landowner, Messrs JD Reid and Partners. The woodland creation and management is overseen by the Scottish Rural College.[202] The aims of the new woodland are to reduce pollution from the nearby farm and act as a buffer to the burns, improve farm conservation and provide a safe haven for animalsas well as provideaccess for people to enjoy them. About 1600 plants per hectare will be planted by the time the canopy closes. Over 70 years, the 17.4 hectare woodland will sequester 4.77ktCO2e.

A combination of Scottish Government grant and private investment secured the project. The carbon capture resulting from the project is quality assured through independent verification under the Woodland Carbon Code; and details are included within the Forestry Commission's Registry of UK Woodland Carbon Projects.[203]

9.7.6 We estimate that the current programme of 10,000 hectares of new woodland creation per year could provide cumulative savings of around 2.9MtCO2e by 2027. Further emissions savings will continue throughout the lifetime of the woodland. The cost of achieving this over the period 2013-2022 will be around £450 million and average around £57 million per year thereafter to 2027. Much of this will come from financial support through the SRDP, but there will also be additional planting on the national forest estate.

9.7.7 Opportunities for developing the market for timber construction materials lie primarily in the growing utilisation of cross-laminated timber (CLT) products. Currently, around 75% of new homes built in Scotland use timber frames CLT is a solid wood engineered product which extends timber's attractiveness to developers beyond building frames as it can be used as walls, floors and roofs. Investment (largely private sector) in new cross-laminated timber production facilities using Scottish timber could offer an opportunity for significant market development. In this case an investment in two new plants of around £40 million by 2022 and around a further £10million by 2025 to expand production capacity, could potentially achieve cumulative emissions abatement of the order 450 ktCO2e by 2027.

Highlights of progress to date

In 2011, we completed research on behaviour change in agriculture and the development of indicators to measure progress in reducing agricultural emissions. "Agriculture and Climate Change - Evidence on Influencing Behaviours" is now published and available on the Scottish Government website[204].

In 2011, we completed a scoping study to assess the current data available to measure progress in reducing emissions[205] and we are taking forward additional work to address the major gaps in knowledge on uptake of Farming for a Better Climate measures.

Progress towards the target to plant 100 million trees by 2015 has been good, with the level of woodland creation rising significantly over the past three years. The 9,000hectares of new woodlands which were planted in 2011-12, put rates on track towards meeting our longer term target of an average of 10,000 hectares a year.

9.8 Rural land use abatement summary

Rural Land Use Earliest start date Annual Abatement (KtCO2e) 2020 Annual Abatement (KtCO2e) 2027
Farming for a Better Climate 2010 103 107
Increase Afforestation Rate to 10kh per year 2015 310 687
90% Uptake of Fertiliser Efficiency Measures 2018 260 260
Developments in agricultural technology post 2020 >2020 310 310
Accelerated restoration of degraded peatland 2013 177 515
Wood First - Timber Construction Programme 2022 0 125
Additional technical potential from low carbon land use 2025 0 750