Farm visits show sector's action on climate change

While farm visits to help better educate schoolchildren on where their food comes have offered pupils a day out of the classroom for years, a scheme to do the same for politicians and policymakers was this week hailed a success.

NFU Scotland's climate change policy manager, Kate Hopper.
NFU Scotland's climate change policy manager, Kate Hopper.

And the organisers claimed that more than 150 local MSPs, MPs and local councillors heard about the importance of sustainable food production and the benefits which agriculture provides to the Scottish economy in the weeks running up to the COP 26 conference in Glasgow.

A series of farm visits, jointly organised by NFU Scotland, Quality Meat Scotland and SAC Consulting took place over the past month to set the scene before the climate change conference with the aim of spelling out the climate change and environmental innovations which were taking place on farms around the country.

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Those attending the meetings saw first-hand what action farmers were taking to help to tackle climate change and heard how, as a sector, agriculture was poised to help the country achieve ‘net zero’.

“These fact-finding visits demonstrated to our politicians and councillors the many steps that farmers and crofters across all parts of Scotland are already taking to tackle climate change and enhance biodiversity,” said NFU Scotland president, Martin Kennedy.

With red meat production likely to fall squarely within the cross-hairs of the commitment given by over 100 world leaders at the COP leaders’ summit to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent, NFU Scotland warned against any knee-jerk policy decisions in reaction.

The union’s climate change policy manager, Kate Hopper, pointed out that the Scottish beef industry had a greenhouse gas footprint which was only half of the world average figure – and that the country’s farmers had reduced methane emissions by 18 per cent in recent times.

Hopper said the public could rest assured Scottish agriculture was making positive strides towards meeting its targets and responsibilities and that included methane.

But while she acknowledged the methane issue she also said that the GWP100 measure adopted by the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was outdated and massively overestimated the contribution of ruminants as it failed to consider the complexities of the natural methane cycle.

She said that provide ruminant numbers remained stable, methane production from the sector remained in balance with degradation – meaning there was no net increase. This fact, she said was built into the GWP* calculations which gave a far truer indication of the warming potential of the gas produced by cattle and sheep.

Hopper stated that acknowledging this approach would help foster a true understanding of the actual picture of the impact which ruminants had on methane balance and the steps needed to be taken to reduce the impact of the gas in Scotland.

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But she added that Scotland’s farmers were already taking bold steps to reduce methane emissions. This included the use of genetics, feed management, and efficient finishing of animals for the marketplace, alongside increased carbon sequestration and soil, crop and biodiversity management on farm.

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