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
Our recommendations

Our recommendations

A legacy of various support schemes, over many years, has led the group to assert that producing a list of practical measures in isolation will not deliver the desired result. Only when we truly understand and buy in to the strategic outcomes, at both farm and national level, will we achieve the ACCG remit and the ambitious targets we aspire to achieve by 2032 and beyond. This view is reflected in the recommendations set out below:

1. The creation and implementation of a future industry strategy, policy framework and supporting measurement tools that are capable of adaptation as new science and evidence emerges.

2. A financial investment commitment to strengthen research, technological development and innovation that will allow the industry to achieve the Climate Change Plan targets.

3. The development and delivery of Scotland's Climate Smart Agriculture Framework – an industry route-map to the adoption of mitigation practices that lead to reduced emissions and the sustainable growth of agriculture, supported by the continuation of a Farmer Led Implementation Group.

4. The introduction of a Climate Smart Farm Plan at individual farm level, based on the principles of the Climate Smart Agriculture Framework and using the methodologies of Integrated Farm Management Planning (IFM), similar to the LEAF approach outlined in Annex 2. The Farm Plan will incorporate baseline measurements in the areas of carbon auditing, soil management, nutrient management, integrated pest management (IPM), biodiversity status, water management, and waste management.

5. A three-tiered approach to implementation, based on Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC) aligned to the Climate Smart Agriculture Framework, further enhanced by the introduction of standardised baseline measurements. The Climate Smart Farm Plan introduced in recommendation 4, will be a conditionality requirement to access Tier 2 and 3 funding, supported by the practical measures outlined in Annex 3 to incentivise adaptation.

6. A commitment to the introduction of a Tier 3 support package to facilitate transformation pilots and practices that require capital investment.

7. A commitment to collaborate with industry bodies and training providers to align the principles of the Climate Smart Agriculture Framework to design and implement a knowledge transfer and training strategy, designed to maximise engagement and action

Our recommendations are based on a situational analysis of the arable sector and an assessment of its climate impacts and vulnerabilities, both of which have allowed us to outline a clear strategic direction, as well as a set of practical measures we believe can have the greatest impact on the arable sectors contribution to Scotland's Climate Change Plan.

The ACCG recognise that their aims and assessment criteria have aligned to the principles of Climate Smart Agriculture, as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, illustrated below and explained in Annex 2.

Figure 3: Climate Smart Agriculture [4]

Illustration outlining the key principles of climate smart agriculture

The Climate Smart Agriculture approach firmly positions the importance of balancing both economic and environmental resilience, a principle which the ACCG feel is fundamental in setting the strategic direction for Scottish agriculture.

The ACCG Recommendations Explained

The Call for Evidence that formed part of this process allowed the group to consider evidence from scientists, organisations and working farmers, serving to highlight the complexity of climate change science and the embryonic nature of its role within agriculture. This influenced our first recommendation:

1. A future industry strategy, policy framework and supporting measurement tools that are capable of adaptation as new science and evidence emerges.

The agriculture industry has a number of roles in delivering societal value, and the group feel it is important to recognise the balance that must be achieved across this spectrum. In particular the role played in achieving national goals in relation to health and well-being, an inclusive approach to the availability of nutritiously dense food must always be a priority. Annex 1 of the report sets out the current context or situational analysis for the arable sector, in relation to Scotland's Climate Change Plan 2018-2032, as well as the crucial role played in many food and drink value chains.

The peer-reviewed evidence shared with the group by multiple organisations and individuals, further highlighted the opportunity that novel crops, advanced breeding and technological innovation in areas such as electric vehicles can play in the achievement of national economic and environmental goals. Before we embark on a journey to incentivise changes in farming practice we must ensure those recommendations are based on credible evidence, and crucially we must be sure that the measurement tools are fit for purpose. This view influenced our next recommendation:

2. An investment commitment to strengthen research, technological development and innovation that will allow the industry to achieve the Climate Change Plan targets.

The ACCG have already expressed the view that recommending a list of practical measures in isolation will not achieve the desired result. The group also recognise the need for our future strategy and policy framework to take a cross-sectoral approach. The ACCG therefore believe the recommendations of each of the farmer-led groups should be supported by the continuation of a farmer-led implementation group, whose remit will be based on recommendation 3 below:

3. The development and actioning of Scotland's Climate Smart Agriculture Framework – an industry route-map to the adoption of mitigation practices that lead to reduced emissions and the sustainable growth of agriculture, supported by the continuation of a Farmer Led Implementation Group.

The Climate Smart Agriculture Framework will provide a structure to support our baseline and enable transition, including the development and implementation of a new delivery model for agricultural policy and investment. We have the opportunity to remove the complexity and lack of understanding surrounding agricultural support by clearly linking it to the achievement of national outcomes. This would ensure it is well understood, accepted and celebrated for improving national economic and environmental prosperity.

The Climate Smart Agriculture Framework provides a clear industry route-map and investment strategy for the transitional journey towards realising the opportunity our industry presents in mitigating climate change and contributing to our national food and drink ambitions. It will be the tool to leverage opportunities and demonstrate that not only can agriculture support national priorities, but there are many areas where we can demonstrate leadership.

The ACCG have outlined a strategic industry direction and believe this should be aligned to activity at individual farm level. We therefore recommend the introduction of the Climate Smart Farm Plan (CSFP), supported by the principles of Integrated Farm Management (IFM), a whole farm business approach to sustainable farming, explained in Annex 2.

The IFM approach mirrors the principles of Climate Smart Agriculture, recognising the critical role that agriculture plays in not only climate change mitigation but also the delivery of nature-based solutions through agroecological and regenerative practices, underpinning vibrant rural communities and the tourism and food and drink industries from which they stem.

Introducing a strategic and measurable approach to environmental planning at farm level will be critical to achieving targets. The ACCG therefore recommend:

4. The introduction of a Climate Smart Farm Plan, based on the principles of the Climate Smart Agriculture Framework and using the methodologies of Integrated Farm Management Planning (IFM). The Farm Plan will incorporate baseline measurements in the areas of carbon auditing, soil management, nutrient management, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), biodiversity status, water management and waste management.

The establishment of baseline measurements at individual farm level are integral to the ACCG recommendations. We must clearly understand the position from which we begin if we are to credibly measure progress. At farm level the Climate Smart Farm Plan will build on the good principles established through quality assurance schemes and be supported by a number of practical measures the group consider to be of most relevance in contributing to emission reduction and environmental enhancement, as outlined in Annex 3. The measures are proposed based on considerations of their emission reduction potential, implementation cost, and market impact.

If the Climate Smart Framework is the route-map, the Climate Smart Farm Plan is the vehicle we will use to make our journey. The ACCG recognise the transitional nature of this journey and recommend:

5. A three-tiered approach to implementation based on GAEC standards aligned to the Climate Smart Agriculture Framework, further enhanced by the introduction of standardised baseline measurements. The Climate Smart Farm Plan will be a conditionality requirement to access Tier 2 and 3 funding, supported by practical measures outlined in Annex 3 to incentivise adaptation.

Annex 3 outlines the recommended practical measures the ACCG believe will lead to greatest impact and successfully incentivise adaptation. The ACCG would also assert that a tiered approach recognises what needs to happen to allow our people and businesses to deliver, with inclusive support and a robust infrastructure, while ensuring that everything we do continues to support national priorities.

Individual businesses will reach milestones in this journey at differing stages. Recognising pioneering industry-led approaches will allow us to accelerate at a faster pace. Therefore our recommendation is for the Scottish Government to commit to:

6. The introduction of a Tier 3 support package to facilitate transformation pilots and practices that require capital investment.

We know there have been numerous papers published in the past, calling for action that, despite everyone's best efforts, were never fully achieved. We do not want that to happen this time. For that reason, we have clearly mapped out the fundamental structural changes required for successful outcomes. We also recognise the importance of behavioural change being incentivised through carefully designed knowledge transfer and training. We acknowledge that fundamental change takes time, effort and commitment, which we do not necessarily have in the face of a climate emergency. A well thought-out engagement strategy is critical. Our final recommendation is therefore to:

7. Collaborate with industry bodies and training providers to align the principles of the Climate Smart Agriculture Framework into a knowledge transfer and training strategy, designed to maximise co-ordinated engagement and action.


Contact

Email: are.futureruralframework@gov.scot