Publication - Publication

Climate Change Plan: third report on proposals and policies - written statement

Published: 28 Feb 2018

Our formal response to the reports prepared by the four Parliamentary Committees who scrutinised proposals and policies in the draft Climate Change Plan.

Contents
Climate Change Plan: third report on proposals and policies - written statement
Agriculture

Agriculture

Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee

1. The Committee agreed with the Scottish Government's assertion that climate change mitigation measures can make good financial sense for farmers. It therefore recommended that farm advisory services offered should include a business support element. (62)

  • The Scottish Government believes that providing advice to farmers and crofters about the economic benefits of climate change mitigation measures is important, not only to help reduce agricultural emission, but also to help ensure the financial security of Scottish farmers. Business support is already part of the remit of the Farm Advisory Service. This has now been clarified in the Plan.

2. The Committee highlighted the upfront costs associated with many climate change mitigation measures and asked the Scottish Government to consider how existing financial support or incentives could be used to support farmers to put the knowledge they learn via the Farm Advisory Service into practice. The Committee also asked the Scottish Government to consider how it can best use the existing financial support available to incentivise investment in appropriate covered storage, application methods and machinery for manure and slurry. (61, )

  • The Scottish Government will continue to consider the potential of existing support schemes and explore all new opportunities that arise to support farmers to put climate change mitigation techniques into practice. This has now been clarified in the Plan.

3. The Committee highlighted that a new agri-tech group should complement rather than duplicate the UK agri-tech and that the Scottish Government should be aware of the possibility of stakeholder fatigue in this field. (64)

  • It is not the intention of the Scottish Government to duplicate work, instead the aim is to complement and maximise the work of the likes of the UK agri-tech strategy. The aim of the group will be to share learning regarding advances in agricultural technology. This will enable farmers in Scotland to utilise the most appropriate tools, techniques and equipment to optimise crop yield and reduce their emissions intensity. This has now been clarified in the Plan. The Scottish Government also takes on board the committees concerns regarding the possibility of stakeholder fatigue.

4. The Committee highlighted its support for agroforestry and encouraged the Scottish Government to maximise opportunities to raise awareness of its benefits and how it can complement existing farming systems. It also recommended that there needs to be a range of incentives to encourage farmers to make the cultural and practical shift for agroforestry and meet any woodland cover targets. It called on the Scottish Government to consider what incentives it could make available. (132)

  • The Scottish Government is keen to promote the benefits of all forms of woodland on farm including agroforestry. Agroforestry has now been highlighted as example of on-farm woodland in the Plan. The Scottish Government will continue to be alert to any new opportunities and how climate change benefits can be maximised, and will work closely with the agriculture sector and the Forestry Commission Scotland.

5. The Committee highlighted the concern of stakeholders in regard to the unintended consequences of the use of anaerobic digesters including the potential removal of fields from food production, increased requirements to transport feed and timber and the increased pressure it may place on the livestock industry in less favoured areas. (119)

  • The Scottish Government acknowledges that there are concerns from some stakeholders regarding some policies. Addressing any concerns regarding unintended consequences of anaerobic digesters will form part of the proposed feasibility study. This has now been clarified in the Plan.

6. The Committee recommended that the Scottish Government be more ambitious regarding targets for carbon audit uptake. They called on the Scottish Government to work with the sector to produce more stretching targets and make public the detail on how it plans to implement its carbon audit roll out up to 2032. (68)

  • Following the consultation, the Scottish Government will work with the sector on increasing the uptake of carbon audits. However, at this time we cannot commit to any specific course of action. The Scottish Government shall take the Committee's comment into consideration throughout that process.

7. The Committee called on the Scottish Government to consider how greater recognition can be given in the Plan to those in the agriculture sector who are making positive efforts to mitigate climate change through such measures as forestry, peatland restoration and renewable energy. (36)

  • The Scottish Government will continue to work with the sector and others to ensure that agriculture is able to demonstrate the undoubted benefits that it brings as Scotland looks to achieve its climate change goals. The Plan has been improved to highlight the many areas that agriculture contributes to climate change mitigation.

8. The Committee called on the Scottish Government to give further consideration to the policy areas in which the co-benefits are variable and the more targeted actions are required. (276)

  • The Scottish Government will continue to work across Forestry, Peatland and Energy on the bio-energy action plan as we look to maximise the co-benefits of various policy areas.

9. The Committee called on the Scottish Government to consider the practice of conservation tillage in the final draft of the Plan. (143)

  • The Scottish Government already encourages and promotes conservation tillage where practical and will continue to promote this technique. Conservation tillage has now been highlighted as an example mitigation measure in the Plan.

10. The Committee agrees with the Scottish Government that the publication of emission intensity figures for red meat and dairy will be a useful benchmarking tool. However, it raised concerns that this could impose a significant bureaucratic burden on farmers. (112)

  • The Scottish Government's plans to publish emissions intensity figures for beef, lamb and milk places no additional burden on farmers. The work on emissions intensity is based on data that is currently collected. This has now been clarified in the Plan.

11. The Committee called on the Scottish Government to provide clarity on the ways in which it intends to show and enable leadership in the sector. In particular, how it will raise awareness and disseminate best practice arising from the monitor farms programme. (60)

  • The Scottish Government will continue to lead on promoting change by ensuring that high quality advice, information and on-farm demonstrations are available through the Farm Advisory Service and Farming for a Better Climate. The Scottish Government will continue to support and enable innovation and knowledge exchange from within the sector through the likes of the Monitor Farm Network, the Soil Nutrient Network and others support mechanisms.

12. The Committee highlighted that the use of livestock grazing in rotation may be restricted by the infrastructure available on each individual farm. It suggests that this approach should therefore be suggested as best practice only. It called on the Scottish Government to consider any relevant husbandry skills, biosecurity, soil type classification and livestock transportation issues that implementation of the scheme may impose. (123)

  • The Scottish Government will commission a feasibility study that will address these issues. Initial evidence has shown that livestock grazing in rotation on arable land could reduce the amount of nitrogen fertiliser needed on that land, improve soil health, and increase soil carbon. However, further work is required to consider associated emissions and practicalities such as infrastructure, biosecurity and husbandry skills.

13. The Committee recommended that the Scottish Government's consultation on the contribution of livestock health to climate change mitigation to includes a cost benefit analysis of any interventions, the economic implications of various disease management approaches as well as the most effective methods of knowledge exchange. (115)

  • The Scottish Government will take into account a cost benefits analysis of any interventions, as well as the economic implications of different disease management approaches and the effectiveness of knowledge exchange methods before any measure is agreed. This has now been clarified in the Plan.

14. The Committee welcomed increased support for advisory services but noted that farmers often find it challenging to create time to consider climate change mitigation methods. They asked the Scottish Government to share more detailed plans on how it will support the multitude of small agricultural units across Scotland to help them contribute to the plan. (59)

  • The Farm Advisory Service, Farming For a Better Climate, the Nutrient Network and the Monitor Farm Programme are open to all farms. We shall continue to ensure smaller farms and crofts have access to the same high quality advice and information as all other farmers. However, the Scottish Government will continue to explore new opportunities as they arise and shall take the committees comment into consideration.

15. The Committee encouraged the Scottish Government to create a Nitrogen Budget for Scotland highlighting the expertise Scotland already has available in this field at the centre for Ecology and Hydrology. It also recommended that any science based target for nitrogen reduction be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based), taking account of soil type and 'use intensity,' as well as local systems and climate. (85, 86)

  • The Scottish Government is committed to work on the feasibility of a SMART nitrogen target in the Plan. Soil type, use intensity, local systems and climate will be taken under consideration in the development of any target. This has now been clarified in the Plan. Until this work has been established it would be unrealistic to commit to further work. However, the Scottish Government will take the Committee's comment into consideration.

16. The Committee called for further investigation into the nitrogen fixing potential of legume crops. It also called for the creation of an operational group to agree cost-effective measures to improve nitrogen-use efficiency. (106)

  • The Scottish Government will investigate the role of leguminous crops in rotation. The Plan already contains a commitment to this research. On-farm measures to increase N-use efficiency are already promoted by the Scottish Government and there are case studies and technical notes available through the Farm Advisory Service as well as on farm demonstrations through Farming For a Better Climate. At this point we do not see the need for an operational group in this area. However, the Scottish Government shall consider this further as we look to increase their uptake.

17. The Committee asked why organic agricultural methods are not included in the Plan. (137)

  • There are elements of organic farming that are promoted to the wider sector such as nutrient management through slurries and manures and the use of clovers and other legumes in the Plan. However, the Scottish Government stops short of adding the promotion of organic farming as a whole as a mitigation measure. Organic farming in itself is not always better for the climate; increased time for livestock to reach slaughter weight and more regular ploughing of land for weed control can lead to higher GHG emissions.

18. The Committee asked the Scottish Government to consider the issue of long term soil fertility while tenant farmers are functioning within short term tenancies with particular focus on reviewing the procedure for both initial 'ingo' valuations and end of tenancy 'waygo' valuations. (72)

  • The Scottish Government is committed to exploring all the options to help the tenant farming sector and will look at potential barriers and take the Committee's comment into consideration.

19. The Committee suggested that the Scottish Government should monitor progress regarding the voluntary take up of soil testing, and if the current policy is not effective, it should be prepared to consider further action to ensure farmers are willing and able to soil test effectively. (95)

  • The Scottish Government will continue to monitor progress. There is, for example, a commitment to progress check soil testing in 2020 and we will look at further incentives if we are not on track to meet targets. The Scottish Government will continue to look at new opportunities as they arise and will take the Committee's comment into consideration.

20. The Committee noted the benefits associated with soil testing and in particular the benefits of testing, phosphorus, potassium and organic matter and called on the Scottish Government to encourage this approach as best practice. (100)

  • The Scottish Government agrees with the Committee's views on the importance of nutrient and organic matter testing and will add it to the future consultation. This has now been clarified in the Plan.

21. The Committee recommended that the Scottish Government consult with its stakeholders in order to clarify and consolidate its future plans for the Agricultural Sector. In particular, to fulfil the Climate Change Act (Scotland) 2009 requirement and set out plans for climate change mitigation, not just up to 2025 but to 2032. (46)

  • The Scottish Government has been heavily involved with stakeholders throughout this process. This has been illustrated by Andrew Bauer, NFUS, who when giving evidence in February 2017, stated that NFU Scotland "has no complaints about the extent to which it has been consulted." However, we are in constant discussion with our stakeholders and we will continue as we look at how to improve the lines of communication as we move forward with the delivery of the Plan.

22. The Committee advised that initial views of stakeholders should be taken into account regarding the utility and effectiveness of any low carbon marketing scheme when there are existing schemes which may provide similar results. (75)

  • The Scottish Government will take into account contributions that could be made from established marketing schemes and we will continue to work with Scottish Government colleagues around relevant upcoming policies or bills. This has now been clarified in the Plan.

23. The Committee called for the Scottish Government to close its evidence gaps in terms of the wider benefits of climate change mitigation activities including issues around livestock consumption and health, emissions storage and nitrogen efficiency with leguminous crops as well as human health and social impacts. (275)

  • The Plan already contains commitments for research into the wider benefits of climate change mitigation activities. The policy proposals include the investigation of the benefits and barriers of leguminous crops in rotation and planting varieties with improved Nitrogen-use efficiency. In addition the policy proposals include the action to investigate the practicalities of livestock grazing in rotation of current arable land and a feasibility study into the establishment of manure/ slurry exchanges.

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee

1. The Committee recommended that the final Plan includes timescales for the evaluation work on the Farming for a Better Climate scheme. (507)

  • The Farming for a Better Climate Scheme works with farmers to find practical ways to move towards a more profitable, low carbon future, adapt to a changing climate and secure farm viability for future generations. Work on the evaluation of Farming for a Better Climate is being taken forward and more information will be available in the monitoring framework.

2. The Committee recommended that soil testing should be subject to regulation and that the policy for compulsory soil testing for improved land should be reinstated in the final Plan. (523)

  • The Scottish Government believes that this is not the approach that is currently needed. We must first work with the industry to establish the level of testing currently being performed in Scotland and then look to encourage further uptake. Soil testing alone will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the farmer must undertake action on the farm after they receive the results. The best way to achieve this is by working with them. However, there is a commitment to progress check soil testing in 2020 and to look at further incentives if we are not on track to meet targets.

3. The Committee recommended that the final Plan should include a list of the sector experts involved in reviewing the initial emissions trajectory for agriculture and the development of the carbon envelope for the sector and provide information on the changes made as a result of that advice to ensure transparency. (154)

  • The level of detail requested by the Committee is not appropriate for inclusion in the Plan. However, the Scottish Government has and will continue to provide information on the consultation process and the stakeholder/sectorial experts involved in the development of the agricultural chapter when requested.
  • In finalising the Agriculture emissions envelope we incorporated the latest 2015 Greenhouse Gas Inventory data which resulted in a revised emissions profile for non-energy Agricultural emissions, as well as transport emissions, captured in the agricultural sector

Multiple Committees

1. The ECCLR and REC committees expressed views about the voluntary nature of the Agricultural sector's climate change mitigation actions including the importance of behavioural change within the sector. Both committees recommended that the Scottish Government should consider alternative approaches if the voluntary measures aren't effective. (54)

  • The Scottish Government will continue to monitor progress and as such there is a commitment to progress check soil testing in 2020 and will look at further incentives if we are not on track to meet targets for example. In addition, the Scottish Government will publish an Annual Progress Report on the Monitoring Framework of the Plan, detailing how each sector including Agriculture is performing against the indicators set out in the Plan.

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