As agriculture is the main use of land in Scotland, farmers and smallholder farmers are key players in ensuring we meet climate change targets, restore nature and produce food sustainably. sustainable.
The way we support agriculture tends to fund measures that can harm the environment and nature and does not sufficiently support those who work in a nature-friendly way.
That’s why we welcome recent calls by the Just Transition Commission (JTC) for the Scottish government to reform future farm support systems and help farmers do better for the climate.
To put the urgency for action into context, nearly a fifth of Scotland’s emissions come from agriculture and the reduction trends are not where they should be. Until this year emissions from the sector had remained static for over a decade and last year a report by WWF Scotland showed that current proposed policies for agriculture bring us to less than half the ‘place we need to be to keep Scotland on track to net zero. .
We also know that our changing climate is already impacting Scottish agriculture. WWF research found extreme weather conditions in 2017 contributed to losses of up to £161million for Scottish farmers.
With recent record high temperatures, as well as water scarcity and drought warnings, it is clear that the sector needs to catch up with climate change, rather than taking proactive steps to reduce emissions.
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All of this shows that Scotland desperately needs a new, more ambitious system to support farming. The Scottish Government has a unique opportunity to reframe how it spends the £500million it spends on farm subsidies each year. This funding comes with few strings attached, benefits the most productive and intensively cultivated areas and, in some cases, supports damage to the environment and nature.
We support Scottish Environment Link’s ‘Farm for Scotland’s Future’ campaign, which calls on the Scottish Government to use its forthcoming Farming Bill to develop a rural support system that works for climate, nature and people.
We agree with the JTC’s calls for an ambitious farm payments scheme and would like to see a proposal for a just transition plan for farming presented before the legislation is introduced.
This would give businesses and communities the guidance they need to invest in their future and receive the support needed to transition to regenerative farming systems while the Scottish Government maps out how future support will ensure emissions are reduced, nature restored and ensure that the benefits are fairer. share.
Scotland has the opportunity to lead the way by creating a system that helps deliver our climate ambitions, as well as people and nature. By using a greater share of public money to support nature and climate-smart agricultural practices, we can help biodiversity thrive, lock in carbon and contribute to climate adaptation. It would also build resilience and bring benefits to agricultural businesses and rural communities.
Unless we take seriously the pressures that land, nature and climate are currently facing, we will exacerbate the problems of future generations of land managers by stalling the growing problems of pollution and nature’s decline. And without urgent action, we will fail to deliver a just transition for agriculture.
Ruth Taylor, Agricultural and Land Policy Manager, WWF Scotland