SCOTTISH AGRICULTURE has a hugely important role to play in addressing climate change, supporting biodiversity and producing healthy, sustainable food, and must be given the recognition it deserves in the global discussions soon to take place at COP26.

These were the thoughts echoed by industry leaders from across the agricultural sector, ahead of the UN Conference due to take place between Sunday, October 31 and Friday, November 12.

World leaders are soon to descend on Glasgow for two weeks of discussions – seeking solutions on how to secure global net zero by 2050 and limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C.

The Scottish Farmer asked organisations that represent a range of sectors across Scottish agriculture to share their thoughts on the upcoming conference and the main outcomes they hope to see coming out of the expected wide-ranging discussions.

Our COP26 spread has been shared in four parts (as featured on pages 12 - 15, in the October 23rd edition of the Scottish Farmer) and this is the first part of the series:-

Read more: Scotland is #FARMINGFORTHEFUTURE

NFU Scotland

The National Farmers’ Union Scotland welcomes the opportunity to take part in COP26 as it comes to Glasgow.

Climate change, the security and sustainability of our food supply, along with managing biodiversity loss are crucial issues in delivering a sustainable future for Scottish agriculture.

Our membership of over 8500 farmers, growers, and crofters see themselves as part of the solution to climate change.

Scottish soils, which are grazed by cattle and sheep, hold a staggering 3000 megatonnes of carbon. The beef industry has reduced methane emissions by 18% and the carbon footprint of our milk is one-third lower than the world average.

Nitrous oxide emissions from fertilisers, soil cultivation and manure management has fallen by 15% as farmers have moved to more organic methods.

Our soft fruit and vegetable production continues to grow, increasing our self-sufficiency and significantly reducing food miles.

At COP26 we look forward to showcasing how our members are already on their net zero journey and how they have a key role in further reducing emissions to meet climate change goals of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

As world leaders meet in Glasgow, we want a just transition that allows for Scottish agricultural businesses to remain productive and profitable. Post-COP26 the onus is on Scottish Government to work with Scottish farmers to develop and deliver a new post-Brexit, post-CAP agricultural policy for Scotland that delivers on all requirements.

It is vital that agriculture, land use and biodiversity policies are practical, properly funded and realistic. Scottish agriculture needs a holistic approach to farming, food, biodiversity, landscapes, communities and climate.


By chairman, Bill Gray

Realisation and acknowledgement that agriculture, particularly in Scotland, can be part of the solution rather than the problem is in contrast to industrialisation in other countries.

Sustainable food production is already being practised here and while there is undoubtedly more that can be done, understanding the value of grassland for example and its ability to sequestrate carbon is vital, understated and underpins the environmental value of livestock production in this part of the northern hemisphere.

Continued development of local producers supplying local consumers with the benefits of reduced transportation and therefore carbon emissions. The recent pandemic showed the value of this and indeed the effect it has on food security, with less reliance on imported produce being key.

The understanding therefore that not all production systems the world over are the same is important and as a result, a ‘one size fits all solution’ is unlikely to be successful as it will not take account of regional variation.

Those with the highest emissions have the ability to show greater percentage improvement than those already working hard to reduce them.

Collaboration with local businesses should be encouraged and supported to add to renewable energy production while at the same time ensuring that efficiency of that production is paramount.

Carbon offset practices must be regulated. Industrial companies buying land to plant trees where that land could potentially produce food and at the same time not reducing their carbon footprint in any other way, further threatens livelihoods and local food production which are the cornerstone of rural communities.

Sustainable Food Trust

By Head of Policy and Campaigns, Megan Perry

We believe farming is in danger of being ‘missing in action’ at COP 26. Yet it is in the unique position of having the potential to be one of the biggest nature-based solutions to climate change. This is because sustainable and regenerative farming systems can not only cut emissions but contribute to carbon sequestration through soils, grasslands, hedgerows and trees. We would therefore wish to see the following come from the conference:

  • Recognition that farming can be part of the solution - and therefore greater support given to enable farmers to make the necessary transition to sustainable farming practices.
  • A recommendation that we should align our diets with the productive capacity of sustainable farming systems in the countries or regions in which we live. This would mean relocalising food and moving away from centralised supply chains dependent on non-renewable inputs.
  • That any trade in food should be based along principles of sustainability and that food produced to lower standards in ways which contribute to climate change would be subjected to tariffs or taxes. This follows the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
  • To achieve all this we need to measure our impact - at COP we would like to see support for our Global Farm Metric which seeks to harmonise systems of measurement and ensure we have a common way of understanding the impact of our farming practices.

Scottish Crofting Federation

Crofters are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate; having to adapt to new weather patterns and dealing with an increasing frequency of extreme weather events. Crofting has a good track record in environmental management and steps taken by crofters over the years to manage peatland and plant appropriate woodland have undoubtedly given the sector a head start. However, crofters can still do more to reduce emissions and will be critical to restoring degraded peatland and woodland expansion. Crofters are ready for this challenge.

As world leaders gather in Glasgow next month it is vital for the future of crofting that an agreement is reached that will achieve net zero.

SCF want to see an agreement that -

• Recognises agriculture is part of the solution to achieving net zero and that livestock have an important role to play in that solution.

• Acknowledges that peatland restoration and trees can be integrated with food production, it does not have to be either or.

• Involves communities, acknowledging traditional knowledge, skills and cultural heritage.

• Does not ignore the importance of biodiversity and the high nature value agricultural systems that contribute so much to some of our most precious and fragile habitats.

• Takes a responsible approach to green finance, promoting models that reward those who manage land well not corporations trying to offset their own bad behaviour.

This is perhaps our last chance to get agreement on a way forward before it is too late. World leaders need to get this right.