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

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.

Annex 2 – Climate change frameworks

The International Context

What does Climate Smart Agriculture mean?

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations define Climate Smart Agriculture using the following three pillars -

Productivity/Food Security: CSA aims to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and incomes from crops, livestock, and fish, without having a negative impact on the environment. This, in turn, will raise food and nutritional security. A key concept related to raising productivity is sustainable intensification.

Adaptation: CSA aims to reduce the exposure of farmers to short-term risks, while also strengthening their resilience by building their capacity to adapt and prosper in the face of shocks and longer-term stresses. Particular attention is given to protecting the ecosystem services which ecosystems provide to farmers and others. These services are essential for maintaining productivity and our ability to adapt to climate changes.

Mitigation: Wherever and whenever possible, CSA should help to reduce and/or remove greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This implies that we reduce emissions for each calorie or kilo of food, fibre, and fuel that we produce; that we avoid deforestation from agriculture; and that we manage soils and trees in ways that maximize their potential to act as carbon sinks and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.

The World Bank have adopted the CSA approach and define the climate mitigation benefits in the following terms –

A focus on climate change: Like other sustainable agricultural approaches, CSA is based on principles of increased productivity and sustainability, but it is distinguished by a focus on climate change, explicitly addressing adaptation and mitigation challenges while working towards food security for all. In essence, CSA is sustainable agriculture that incorporates resilience.

CSA = Sustainable Agriculture + Resilience – Emissions.

What does Integrated Farm Management mean?

The term Integrated Farm Management (IFM) is widely used but often little understood, resonating with many as an iteration of 'good farming practice'. It will be familiar to some through the LEAF definition of " a whole farm business approach to sustainable farming," but what does this really mean in the context of designing a new support scheme and strategy for Scottish agriculture, and how can we use the principles that underpin the theory to assist us in achieving the Scottish Government's ambitious climate change targets?

At the heart of the IFM approach lies the principle of balancing the economic, environmental, and social aspects of agriculture, to deliver more resilient businesses. In a Scottish context it is critical that any change of future policy in agriculture recognises the symbiotic relationship between the economy, the environment, and societal impact.

The IFM approach can be seen in operation across several frameworks, most notably the LEAF Marque scheme and the European Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture (EISA). It is based on a holistic approach to farm management, encompassing the areas highlighted in the diagram below:

Figure 4: LEAF Integrated Farm Management [7]

Graphic illustrating the holistic approach to farm management taken by the LEAF Marque scheme

The EISA approach also incorporates two further elements, Climate Change/Air Quality, and Crop Nutrition, both of which are highly relevant in a Scottish context.

The individual elements all require plans in their own right, but form part of an overarching business plan, where the impact of change of practice in one area is rightly considered for its impact on another. The notable exception to this would be in businesses who do not adopt mixed farming practices, rendering a sectoral plan irrelevant. The critical aim with this approach is to make clear the economic consequence or benefit from changed practice, recognising the obvious motivation/necessity of improved profitability for creating behavioural change.

The IFM approach is based on planning, monitoring, evaluating, and the need for continuous improvement at individual farm level. It provides a framework for implementing more effective decision making, in relation to both environmental and economic consequence and crucially, provides clear accountability, measurement parameters, and auditable evidence. The requirements for each element of the IFM are aligned to the practical measures suggested by the ACCG to clearly indicate how they achieve the aim of reducing GHG emissions.



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