In the survey by the Dairy Climate Change Group, 95% of respondents were aware of the Scottish Government target of net zero, but there were varying degrees of awareness about what this meant for them and not clear as to the role they play.
The narrative often used in the media, is that "farming is the problem", which invokes a defence response. There needs to be a reframing of the debate to "farming is part of the solution". The complex issues of flow gases vs stock gases, sequestration and offsetting, are lost in the media soundbites, with a tendency for reductive bias as complex concepts are over simplified inhibiting the development of sophisticated understanding. The intricate interconnected nature of agriculture and the developing science of climate change is lost in the drive for simplification and single agendas. Dairy farmers are wanting to play their part in delivering climate change targets, but not at the expense of importing food and exporting emissions.
By reframing the debate and trying to address the disconnect, farmers will be invested in the outcome and have confidence in the process. The objectives of any programme of delivery must meet the standard - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time related.
It is important that the programme is non-competitive. The objective must be to achieve collective change, not create competition and divisions between farming sectors and within sectors (dairy system, size, contract etc.) which would be counterproductive.
There is a key role for scientists to help inform and shape the debate, sharing the uncertainties and priorities for change. The urgency for delivery of change in what is an evolving science, has parallels with the current pandemic, and lessons can be drawn from this.