Publication - Independent report

Arable Climate Change Group - a new blueprint for Scotland's arable sector: report

Published: 21 Jul 2021

Report from the Arable Climate Change Group, one of the farmer-led groups established to develop advice and proposals for the Scottish Government. It focusses on how to cut emissions and tackle climate change, something that was re-emphasised in the updated Climate Change Plan.

Arable Climate Change Group - a new blueprint for Scotland's arable sector: report
Introduction

Introduction

A new blueprint for arable

The Arable Climate Change Group (ACCG) was formed in December 2020, building on the approach taken by the Suckler Beef Climate Change Group, and undertaking a remit to provide Scottish Government with recommendations on practical measures to:

  • Improve efficiency, productivity and profitability of crops;
  • Enhanced environmental contribution from the sector by identifying practical ways to reduce emissions;
  • Mitigation of other environmental impacts of production and enhancing contribution to sustainable land use, especially soil health and crop management.

The full details of the group remit and a list of members can be found in Annex 4.

In this context the group's aim is to firmly position the role that Scotland's arable sector can play in contributing to long-term climate change mitigation, biodiversity enhancement, thriving rural communities and an ambitious food and drink industry. The group also wish to recognise the deeply interconnected relationships that exist between the sectors of Scottish agriculture, reflected in the holistic nature of our recommendations. For the purposes of this report the arable sector includes cereals, other crops, horticulture and vegetables (including for human consumption, stock feed, energy, industrial use and seeds).

Why Arable matters:

  • In 2019, the combined output of arable produce in Scotland accounted for a third of agricultural output with a value of £1.1 billion:
  • Around 580,000 hectares were used to grow cereals, crops, fruit and vegetables, accounting for around 10% of Scotland's total agricultural area. This is equivalent to 12% of the total arable land in the UK:
  • Barley and wheat are the main cereal crops grown in Scotland, accounting for around 85% of the area of crop-land and much of it goes into whisky production. Indeed, 87% of barley and 50% of wheat requirements of Scotland's whisky production are sourced in Scotland.

The Scottish Government target to achieve a 32% emission reduction across the agricultural industry by 2032 will require an approach that optimises contribution at individual farm level and recognises the significant impact of technological innovation and scientific research in shaping new farming practice.

Table 1: Sector Emissions Data ( MtCO2e) [1]

2018

2020

2025

2030

2032

Agriculture

7.7

7

5.8

5.5

5.3

Electricity

2.2

1.7

1.3

-

-

Industry

11.6

11.5

10.7

7.3

6.5

Waste

1.8

1.6

0.9

0.7

0.7

Transport

14.8

11

7.1

6.5

6.5

Buildings

9.4

8

5.6

2.6

2.6

LULUCF

0.9

0.6

-0.1

1.8

2.3

NETs

-

-

-

-3.8

-5.7

LULUCF = Land-Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry; NETs = Negative Emissions Technologies

The ACCG recognise industry efforts have largely had to concentrate on meeting the societal need for affordable and nutritious food production. Collectively we must now strive to implement solutions that lead to the decoupling of production growth from emissions growth.

The ACCG also recognise that Scottish agriculture starts from a strong position in terms of the health of our soil and the progress made in reducing GHGs over the last 30 years. Nevertheless, as the following graph demonstrates, it is clear that if Scotland's statutory targets are to be met, then progress must be accelerated.

Figure 1: Scottish GHG Emissions from Agriculture [2]

Chart displaying the historic and target Scottish GHG emissions from agriculture from 1990 to 2032

The arable sector has recognised how changes in farming practice can positively influence reduced Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG's), however this has not been reflected in a reduction in overall emissions from the sector according to estimates.

Figure 2: Total Emissions from Arable, 1990 - 2018 [3]

Chart illustrating total emissions of key GHG pollutants from arable farming from 1990 to 2018

(Methane represents less than 1% of arable emissions and therefore does not show on the graph)

Emissions from the arable sector account for around 1.6 MtCO2e, or 21% of total agricultural emissions. Around 60% of emissions relate to N2O derived from fertiliser and soil management with the remainder being CO2 largely from farm vehicles.

While efficiency of production and yields have increased, and examples of best practice exist, we have not had a coordinated strategy that effectively balances the need for climate change mitigation and biodiversity enhancement with efficient food production.

We believe this farmer-led process represents a significant opportunity. Scotland's arable sector is progressive and capable, with widespread membership of quality assurance schemes and an abundance of skilled people, contributing to many world-renowned food and drink products. The sector is not just crucial to Scotland's national brand - it is crucial to our national prosperity and presents a significant economic and environmental opportunity.

We have a bold and ambitious vision for the future of the sector – inspired by the conversations and contributions to this process, from business and organisations across Scotland.

To achieve this vision will require radical change and a co-ordinated approach to policy-making and action, supported by the work of each of the farmer-led groups, incentivising together economic and environmental sustainability.

The close and enduring relationship between Scottish Government policy and agriculture is fundamental to success, and this group are clear that future policy must act as an enabler, empowering industry to identify and act upon their own priorities, in relation to both climate resilience and sustainable food production.

The route-map to change must be clear, recognising the multiple audiences with which agriculture interacts. Based on this approach the group believe future policy must be driven by an outcomes focused approach, clearly demonstrating what financial support causes to happen, not what it directly pays for.


Contact

Email: are.futureruralframework@gov.scot