The 26th UN Climate Change Conference (“COP26”) is taking place in Glasgow in early November. The COP (Conference of Parties) brings together countries from around the world for global climate summits.
The event is being hailed as a COP of significant significance. In 2015, it was this group that established the Paris Agreement where members agreed to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees with a target limit of 1.5 degrees. Under the Accord, countries have committed to submit national plans setting out the measures they will adopt to reduce emissions, which would be reviewed every five years. COP26 is therefore important, as the five-year update, scheduled for last year, was delayed due to the pandemic.
The Scottish Government has set ambitious targets for Scotland to meet the limits of the Paris Agreement. When it comes to land use, however, he has to balance that with the importance of our food and drink and agriculture sectors.
He underlined his support for the food and drink sector in his ‘Delivering a green recovery on the road to net zero’ strategy which recognizes the sector’s ambitions to increase the sector’s value to £30bn from by 2030. The Scottish Government also recognizes that the food and drink sector contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and must balance the impact of our food production on the greenhouse gas emissions of Scotland with their climate change ambitions.
Land managers have a role to play and an opportunity to work with nature to help achieve climate change goals. Many land management practices already in place, such as managing soil (to avoid poaching), planting hedges, reducing reliance on fertilizers, are already contributing to Scotland’s climate change ambitions .
The Scottish Government has increased the volume of climate-focused support available to land managers by providing advice, research and development and targeted funding. Change is difficult, but the support available will help assess current practices and identify areas where improvements could be made. A windbreak of trees, for example, could improve a wetland area of farmland that was relatively unproductive anyway, while supporting existing livestock practices and benefiting the climate.
I previously written on the resilience of the agricultural sector in the face of the pandemic. The sector has ensured that food supply chains continue to function and consumers have responded by buying locally. The pandemic has been an opportunity to change shopping habits with a positive impact on the climate.
The agricultural sector is facing changes, but also opportunities. The sector has a key role to play in climate change through land use. The Scottish Government aims for the sector to have adopted all available low emission technologies such as maximizing efficiency, minimizing inputs and maximizing outputs, precision farming, optimal storage of manure and manure and use by 2032.
It feels like everything is changing at the same time for the industry, but the change has come at the right time. We anticipate a new agricultural support system following Brexit and the Scottish Government’s focus on climate will certainly shape this new system. The sector is well placed to respond to the climate challenge and COP26 will provide a platform from which to demonstrate our ambitious goals and the actions taken to achieve them.