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Consensus breaks out on net-zero farming 

A panel of farmers, academics and NGO representatives have published a pathway for making Scottish farming climate compatible. In a debate that has been notoriously polarised, the Farming for 1.5 Inquiry was able to set out a credible way forward by bringing different perspectives and aspirations around the same table. 

Agriculture accounts for 20% of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions meaning that the Scottish Government cannot achieve its ambitious climate targets without a transformation in farming. 

After a 2-year long Inquiry, the Farming for 1.5 panel produced a consensus set of policy recommendations, taking the sector from where it is today to net zero in 2045. 

Farming for 1.5 was established as an independent inquiry in 2019 by NFU Scotland and Nourish Scotland. It was born out of the desire to explore a viable way forward for farming; one that could deliver for all stakeholders as well as nature and climate. The panel heard evidence from experts on farming practices, environmental impacts and behavioural change; and conducted farm visits. The independence of the Inquiry enabled all panel members to contribute views freely and develop their thinking collectively, without any pre-determined constraints.  

The key recommendations of the report include reducing total emissions from agriculture while maintaining food production per capita and rapid uptake in low methane breeding for cows and sheep.

Nigel Miller, Co-chair of the Inquiry said:

The inquiry journey has reached into soil health and sustainable cropping, in some ways revisiting principles which were established in the 18th century with the first agricultural revolution. Cutting edge science, precision techniques and genetics have also been a significant focus. Both approaches will be part of the net zero future. 

The report, built on consensus, breaks through the tired soundbites that often dominate the climate change debate and block smart solutions.

Mike Robinson, Co-chair of the Inquiry said:

This inquiry has brought together a panel with a wealth of experience and expertise, drawn from farmers, researchers, economists, policy experts, scientists and campaigners. As a result the findings are credible, practical, robust, ambitious but also pragmatic, and there is a strong focus on how this change is delivered and who needs to help bring it about, and not simply on what could be done.

Pete Ritchie, farmer and Director of Nourish Scotland said:

With COP26 a few weeks away, this report sets out a just transition for farming in Scotland, maintaining livelihoods and food production while transforming the impact of farming on climate and nature.  Food production is a major global driver of biodiversity loss and climate change and the world can’t achieve the 1.5 degree target unless the way we farm becomes part of the solution. This consensus approach takes time: but we’re only going to get the change we need by working together.

Image by Ben Seymour

Founder Member of Campaign Collective, chair of the Public Relations & Communications Association Charity and Not-For-Profit Group. Write mainly about charity, public sector and social enterprise campaigns.