Publication - Publication

Climate change delivery plan: meeting Scotland's statutory climate change targets

Published: 17 Jun 2009
Energy and Climate Change Directorate
Part of:
Environment and climate change

The Climate Change Delivery Plan sets out the high level measures required in each sector to meet Scotland's statutory climate change targets, to 2020 and in the long term.

56 page PDF

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56 page PDF

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Climate change delivery plan: meeting Scotland's statutory climate change targets

56 page PDF

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Key messages

  • Emissions from agriculture and agricultural land use have to be reduced in 2020 from 2006 levels by
    0.7 MtCO 2e (34% Scottish target) or 1.3 MtCO 2e (42% Scottish target).
  • Emissions from agriculture and agricultural related land use form a significant proportion of Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions although some of the emissions figures are very uncertain.
  • The key milestone for forestry is to increase planting rates to 10,000 -15,000 hectares/yr by 2015 and to sustain that rate thereafter to maintain the levels of carbon sequestered annually in trees and soils; and to support the rapidly growing wood-fuel industry. There is likely to be a need for new models to finance the higher planting rates required.
  • It is essential to deliver Transformational Outcome 4:

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.

  • A key challenge for this sector is to achieve these targets while working within the global context of increasing demand for food.
  • Short term action will focus on improved advice and services to land managers and opportunities for grant aid through the Scotland Rural Development Programme.


6.1 The land use sector gives rise to emissions from livestock, agricultural soils, from liquid and solid animal wastes, and from certain land use changes, for example, conversion of grassland to cropping. However, it is also a sector with the capacity to sequester carbon through the creation of woodlands and in soils. Allowing for the effect of sequestration, the net emissions from this sector were 2.6 MtCO 2e/yr in 2006.
Figure 9 shows the net sources and net sinks 26 and the overall effect for 2006. Figure 10 sets out the historical emissions from these activities from 1990 to 2006 together with projections out to 2020.

Figure 9: Rural Land Use Net Sources, Net Sinks, and Overall Emissions, 2006

Figure 9: Rural Land Use Net Sources, Net Sinks, and Overall Emissions, 2006

Figure 10: Historical and Projected Emissions from the Rural Land Use Sector, 1990 to 2020

Figure 10: Historical and Projected Emissions from the Rural Land Use Sector, 1990 to 2020

6.2 Rural land use activities are interrelated and interdependent. Land currently in agricultural use, for example, provides the bulk of the land for new woodland planting. A great deal of land in Scotland is used both for extensive grazing and sporting purposes. Much of Scotland's land has significant value for biodiversity and access to the outdoors and these public benefits may depend, in part, on agricultural and woodland management. Rural land management also provides a significant potential for the development of renewable energy for use by land based enterprises and rural communities. The Scottish Government recognised in 2008 that a lack of evidence was hindering decision-making by both government and stakeholders in relation to these choices and commissioned a Rural Land Use Study which is due to report in late 2009.

6.3 All rural land uses are heavily dependent on soils, topography and water. These are the natural resources which need to be managed to minimise emissions and maximise sequestration. Scottish soils are particularly important as a store of carbon, a fact recognised by the Scottish Government's recently published Scottish Soil Framework 27 which highlights protection and enhancement of soil organic matter and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from soils as two key outcomes and priorities for action. Rural land use is also heavily dependent on the weather with the result that land management must both contribute to the reduction in global emissions and be in the forefront of adapting to anticipated changes in the climate.

6.4 The current estimates of emissions and sequestration from land use management as set out in the Inventory provide only, at best, a very rough guide for both policy and practical land use management. Some improved management practices which reduce emissions will not currently result in changes to the figures given in the Inventory. Others such as improvements in the use of energy on farms or the development of renewable sources of energy are not attributable to the land use sector but will appear elsewhere in the Inventory. There are also concerns about the accuracy of the significant emissions currently attributable to changes from cropping to grassland. Additionally, it should be noted that the carbon sequestered naturally in Scotland's peatlands is not accounted for in the Inventory and will not, therefore, be taken into account in the net Scottish emissions account.

6.5 None of these weaknesses with the current Inventory reduces the need for action to reduce emissions. They do place greater priority on identifying and addressing improvements over time and on considering supplementary means of demonstrating progress in the meantime.

Meeting Scotland's 2020 targets

6.6 Projections to 2020 without additional interventions suggest that emissions from agriculture operations alone will rise slightly, to about 7.3 MtCO 2e/yr, driven largely by rising nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from fertiliser use more than offsetting the reduction in methane emissions from lower livestock numbers.

6.7 As set out in Table 1 in Chapter 2, emissions from agriculture and land use have to be reduced in 2020 from 2006 levels by 0.7 MtCO 2e (34% Scottish target) or 1.3 MtCO 2e (42% Scottish target). Afforestation rates need to increase to 10,000 ha/yr by 2015 (34% Scottish target) or 15,000 ha/yr (42% Scottish target). Afforestation to 2020 will deliver some carbon benefits but the greatest levels of sequestration will be delivered in the period 2020 to 2050.

6.8 Measures in the rural land use sector which will contribute to the delivery of the 34% Scottish target in 2020 include:

  • Measures to improve livestock productivity
  • Improved manure and slurry management
  • Development of anaerobic digestion
  • Improved nutrient management systems
  • Protecting high carbon soils
  • Afforestation rates of 10,000 ha/yr.

6.9m Measures in the rural land use sector which will contribute to the delivery of the 42% Scottish target in 2020 will, in addition, focus on:

  • Much higher uptake of many of the above measures
  • Afforestation rates of 15,000 ha/yr.

6.10 The measures and actions required to deliver the 2020 targets are summarised in Table 7 at the end of this chapter and are considered more fully below.

Transformational Outcome 4: A comprehensive approach to carbon in rural land use decisions

6.11 The transformational outcome for the rural land use sector is:

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.

6.12 The measures and actions required to deliver this transformational outcome are summarised in Table 7 at the end of this chapter and are considered more fully below.

The main delivery mechanisms

6.13 In the short term, advice and support for land managers will be crucial in ensuring awareness of the carbon implications of their actions and of best practice to help reduce emissions. Appropriate mechanisms include advisory services such as those provided by the Scottish Agricultural College and Government guidance on best practice.

6.14 The Scotland Rural Development Programme currently provides funding for a wide range of different land management activities. This Programme will need to give sufficient priority to those options which reduce emissions, strengthen sequestration and encourage the development of renewable energy. The broad potential rests in the shape of the Common Agricultural Policy beyond 2014 to be determined by the European Union. This might require new options, new ways of prioritising or setting payment levels, or new ways of attaching minimum conditions for receipt of payment.

6.15 Beyond 2020 there is likely to be further scope for reductions in emissions through the continued adoption of good practice together with the potential impact of technological and management innovations such as changes in animal genetics and feedstuffs. In addition, the scope for increased sequestration and the development of renewable energy sources should continue over this time horizon. Consumers may also be prepared to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions "embedded" in what they buy to consume.


6.16 Emissions from agricultural activities have a significant unavoidable component as they arise from natural biological processes. A relatively high proportion of the unavoidable component is associated with livestock production and thus presents a challenge to society's current demand for products such as meat and dairy. The greatest impact on emissions within Scotland would be to decrease Scotland's current production of meat and dairy products but it would be potentially self defeating to limit Scottish production if retailers simply stocked imported meat which might have higher greenhouse gas emissions per unit of product. The production of agricultural products is part of a globally traded system. For example, about 50% of lambs born in Scotland are exported to the rest of the UK for finishing. The Scottish Government is commissioning research on the carbon footprint of Scottish livestock products.

6.17 Avoidable emissions from agricultural activities are those that those can be reduced by changes in management practices such as changes in the timing and amounts of nitrogen fertiliser or application of slurry and manures in line with best practice. And farmers, along with other rural land managers, can help to increase the sequestration of carbon in the soil and vegetation, for example, by planting woodlands and by protecting high carbon soils. Analysis by the Scottish Government, based on original work by the Scottish Agricultural College for the Committee on Climate Change, suggests an emissions reduction potential of by 0.7 MtCO 2e (34% Scottish target) or 1.3 MtCO 2e (42% Scottish target) is possible by 2020 at reasonable cost, through a range of changes to nutrient, soil and livestock management.

6.18 There are also opportunities for reducing other emissions related to agricultural activities, such as off-road transport and energy use. The fact that these are not recorded in the agriculture or land use sections of the Inventory should not be a deterrent. Farmers can also take action to develop alternative sources of energy such anaerobic digestion using farm wastes. The full range of practical measures to reduce emissions is set out in the Scottish Government's Farming for a Better Climate28 programme.


6.19 The potential for carbon savings in the forestry sector arises primarily 29 from increasing the forest area (afforestation) and from replacement of fossil fuels with sustainable sources of woodfuel (discussed in Chapter 4: Heat Demand and Supply). Product substitution, such as replacing concrete or steel with timber, also has significant potential and will be important in the assessment of a more holistic, consumption based approach but the benefits are not captured within the existing production-based emissions Inventory.

6.20 The significant increase in forest cover in Scotland from the 1950s to 1990s has sequestered a large volume of carbon dioxide. As these forests mature, the level of carbon sequestration will be balanced by emissions from decaying organic matter and harvesting of wood products. By 2020 and without additional plantings 30, projections suggest the net level of carbon sequestered from forestry will have fallen to 6.7 MtCO 2e/yr, compared with 10.1 MtCO 2e/yr in 2006, causing an increase in net Scottish emissions of over 3 MtCO 2e/yr by 2020.

6.21 Ministers have endorsed the Scottish Forestry Strategy target to increase woodland cover to 25% of Scottish land area (by the second half of the century). This will require additional planting levels of up to 15,000 ha/yr, compared with the current average rates of 4,000-5,000 ha/yr. Grant aid under the Scotland Rural Development Programme has not proved a sufficient incentive, and therefore Forestry Commission Scotland is considering alternative approaches to increase afforestation rates.

Semi-natural habitats

6.22 Semi-natural habitats make up around 50% of Scotland's land-cover, with heathland and blanket bog as the predominant types. Such habitats support a range of biodiversity and contribute to the economy through extensive agriculture, game management and tourism, as well as locking carbon within soil and plant matter. Management of these areas can include controlled burning (muirburn) to improve productivity or biodiversity value. Although muirburn directly releases carbon dioxide from plant material, it can also be a valuable tool for reducing the risk of severe wildfires which can ignite peaty soils and woodlands, thereby releasing far greater volumes of greenhouse gases. Proposals to improve the regulation of muirburn and to encourage more widespread good practice are currently under consideration by the Scottish Government. More generally these habitats need to be managed in a manner that is consistent with climate change policy. As well as locking carbon in soils, improving habitats for wildlife can also help mitigate against the effects of a changing climate and help species adaptation.


6.23 Scottish soils are very rich in carbon; they store over 3,000 million tonnes of carbon, equivalent to over 180 years of annual Scottish greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, the management of this carbon store is extremely important. Of particular importance are Scottish peatlands, which make up the majority of Scottish soil carbon and over 50% of all UK soil carbon. Well managed soils will lead to further accumulations of carbon. Poorly managed carbon rich soils, for example, those subject to overgrazing, drainage, inappropriate ploughing and burning can lead to substantial emissions from this stock of carbon. The changing climate may also affect this stock of carbon but to a lesser extent.

6.24 The immediate need is to ensure appropriate protection for those peatlands and high carbon soils. There are a variety of targets relating to the protection of peatland within UK Habitat Action Plans. These cover management and condition of sites and will contribute to protecting peatlands. Other, short term actions, which are beginning to be addressed, include improving our understanding and measurement of the implications of different land use activities on Scotland's soil carbon. In particular, a better understanding is required of activities that might enhance the ability of soil to sequester carbon and reverse damage that has already taken place, for example, to areas of peatland.

A comprehensive approach to carbon in rural land use decisions

6.25 The opportunities for further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the rural land use sector up to 2050 will depend very largely on the balance required between the services required from Scotland's land. Determining the appropriate mix of land use, and within that the appropriate mix of farming, will lead to the transformational outcome for this overarching sector. This can be achieved by ensuring that carbon is properly factored into decisions about optimising the productivity of Scotland's natural resources.

6.26 This will require appropriate protection for Scotland's carbon rich soils, minimising, as far as possible, emissions from agriculture and other land use activities, and maximising the sequestration of carbon and the use of natural resources to generate renewable energy.

6.27 Economic instruments, such as emissions trading schemes or taxation, could contribute to the reduction in emissions within the rural land use management sector. However, there are issues around the difficulty of measuring emissions and the level of transaction costs given the number of businesses involved. Further work on the use of economic instruments in the rural sector may be required.

6.28 In the absence of applicable economic instruments, there is a greater need to increase alignment of payment and incentive systems for land use activities to provide clearer opportunities for land managers, particularly in the face of volatile farm commodity prices. Any changes of this nature would need to be consistent with the Common Agricultural Policy and other EU legislation.

6.29 The transformational outcome will require that both new and existing delivery mechanisms value carbon effectively and factor in carbon implications alongside the other objectives of rural land use including food and energy security, biodiversity and environmental heritage. A coherent framework is critically important and this will be a feature of the Rural Land Use Summit to be held later in 2009. It is also timely that the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill includes a commitment to develop a Land Use Strategy by March 2011. This strategy will build on the evidence gathered in the Rural Land Use Study which was launched in early autumn 2008 and the outputs from the Land Use Summit.

Barriers and Risks

6.30 The main risks to delivering the potential level of emissions reduction in the rural land sector are:

  • The ability of increased advisory and communication activity, coupled with existing incentive structures, to realise the level of reductions required in avoidable emissions from the agriculture sector. There is a risk for the 34% Scottish target for 2020 and a more significant risk for a 42% target
  • The development and implementation of new models in the forestry sector to realise the increased rate of afforestation
  • Any lack of progress in improving the uncertainties in the Inventory and a means of monitoring the effectiveness of current efforts, leading to delays in action on the ground.

National Conversation

6.31 Scottish policy on agriculture, forestry and rural development has to work within the framework of the EU Common Agricultural Policy and therefore the ability of Scotland to negotiate in the EU is likely to increase Scotland's influence over the overarching policy and delivery framework.

6.32 Taxation has a fundamental influence on land use decisions. Greater flexibility to define a fiscal regime for Scotland would help align taxation regimes with Scotland's economic and environmental priorities.

Table 7: Delivery Plan for the RURAL LAND USE


Required measures (34% Scottish target, 42% Scottish target or Transformational measure)



What more do we need to do?

RURAL LAND USE (15.7 MtCO 2e from net sources and -13.1 MtCO 2e from net sinks in 2006)


34% Scottish target

Adopted by 45% of land managers:

Improved storage of manures and slurries; genetic improvement and better management systems to improve animal productivity and fertility; action to improve animal health.

Further development of anaerobic digestion ( AD) to treat on-farm and other bio-wastes.

Supported scientific work on genetics and health.

Advisory campaigns on animal health.

Work on AD being taken forward. Now receives double Renewables Obligation Certificates.

Tailor incentives in new Scotland Rural Development Programme.

Link with community green waste schemes.

Regulation probably required to meet this level -

e.g. along the lines of Cross Compliance applied to CAP payments.

42% Scottish target

Same measures, but around 90% adoption.


34% Scottish target

Adopted by 45% of land managers:

Minimising the release of emissions by applying nutrients at the optimum rate, timing nutrient applications in line with best practice, using manure, composts and slurries in preference to fertilisers; and choosing plant varieties which use nitrogen more efficiently.

Guidance and advice available, funding available for slurry management through SRDP.

Considering establishment of advisory programme.

Shape incentives to incentivise desired outcome.

42% Scottish target

Same measures, but around 90% adoption.

Land and soil management

34% Scottish target

Protecting peatland and moorland; protecting and creating other semi-natural habitats; managing wetlands and flood plains; creating and managing farm woodlands; and reduced tillage.

Guidance and advice available.

Considering establishment of advisory programme.

Current emissions and the likely impact of these measures is uncertain.

New incentives or regulation if better understanding of issue does not lead to sufficient action.

Woodland creation

34% Scottish target

Planting rate of around 10 kha/year.

Planting currently only 4 kha/year.

Further intervention required to boost planting rates.

42% Scottish target

Planting rate of 15 kha/year.

Work ongoing to develop funding streams through carbon offsetting and other funding models.

New funding models required.


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