Agriculture climate and carbon
There needs to be a radical change to the agriculture sector in Scotland to meet ambitious climate change mitigation targets. The Scottish Government has committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2045. The drive to net zero recently has been accelerated by the update to the Scottish climate change plan with the associated potential to transform the agricultural and food production system. At the same time, it is well recognised that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture and related land use accounted for 24% of the total emissions in 2017, down 29% from the baseline levels of 1990. Previous research has identified a large list of possible mitigation options and it has been possible to prioritise certain measures of cost-effectiveness and GHG mitigation potential. However, large uncertainties remain particularly concerning the regional applicability of individual measures and the importance of climate.
Major changes to farmer behaviour are needed to achieve the Scottish Government’s climate change targets whilst developing a resilient, productive agricultural sector following the UK's departure from the European Union. Improving agricultural practices will be critical for ensuring sustainable and resource-efficient food production, supporting rural community resilience and economic development, addressing the biodiversity and nature crises, facilitating green recovery and tackling the global climate emergency.
- What can the agriculture sector do to reduce its emissions and to meet its targets under the Climate Change Plan update, ensuring that it plays its full role in tackling climate change and contributing towards Scotland’s ambitions for Net Zero by 2045?
- What improvements are needed to ensure actions taken are fully and accurately captured in the national greenhouse gas inventory?
- How can we best improve farm-level carbon calculators to inform and enable mitigation actions and monitor progress towards agricultural targets clearly, transparently and consistently with the greenhouse gas inventory?
This project aims to develop new options for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions from Scottish agricultural systems and provide guidance on how these could best be reported through agricultural emissions inventories. We will support the development of improved inventory reporting with the objective of designing a Tier 3 reporting system for Scotland.
Developing a database of management options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
We are developing and maintaining a comprehensive database that describes emissions and mitigation opportunities from the widest possible range of farming systems and mitigation interventions. The database is based on Scottish agricultural systems and as far as it is possible is used to analyse the impacts of climate and land use on greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation.
The impact of farmer behaviour and attitudes on the uptake of mitigation measures
Farmers’ future uptake of sustainable practices is strongly linked to their attitudes towards these practices and the structure of any incentives or regulations. We are identifying GHG mitigation practices that are close to being adopted by a large group of farmers, therefore informing policy about quick wins. We are investigating which requirements and monitoring mechanisms in policies or industry schemes could achieve higher uptake of practices. The details of practice implementation will be particularly in focus, as the environmental outcome of practice adoption depends heavily on how it is implemented.
Mitigation options for different greenhouse gases
We are also developing new options for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions from Scottish agricultural systems and guidance on how these could best be reported through agricultural emissions inventories. We are supporting the development of improved inventory reporting to design a Tier 3 reporting system for Scotland. Work includes recommendations for improvements in farm GHG calculators and ensuring that barriers to uptake within the farming community are minimised through an understanding of the social economic factors influencing decision-making. Our work is identifying GHG mitigation practices that are close to being adopted by a large group of farmers, therefore informing policy about quick wins. It also investigates which requirements and monitoring mechanisms in policies or industry schemes could achieve higher uptake of practices.
Carbon sequestration by agricultural soils
Using the experimental research platforms, we are undertaking an inventory of carbon stocks at the beginning of the research programme using a detailed soil sampling protocol, sampling multiple locations and depths across each site. This informs the development of estimates of the changes in carbon stocks in response to management interventions undertaken at each site. This data is compiled alongside management and climatic drivers to develop a statistical model of the changes in carbon stocks observed at each site. This is being interpreted alongside model predictions of carbon stock change to interpret the contribution of management activities under different climatic conditions to contribute to carbon sequestration.
Improving the agriculture Greenhouse gas emissions footprinting tool
Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions require international cooperation and understanding. It is important to avoid perverse incentives where food production in Scotland is reduced to accommodate mitigation targets allowing the import of products that in many circumstances may have higher GHG footprints than those that have been produced locally. We are developing modelling approaches to understand the GHG footprint of food production systems in the UK and internationally. This is being used to assess future scenarios for mitigation set against the policy targets of net zero by 2045.
A comparison of Scottish emissions against international benchmarks and analysis of offshoring
A life cycle assessment approach assesses mitigation options in livestock and identifies measures that present a risk of emissions being displaced (or offshored). The marginal abatement cost curve approach is informing GHG budgets by quantifying the cost-effectiveness and total costs of agricultural GHG mitigation.
The aim of this research is to address some key farm-level and policy-level issues to help develop policies in Scotland and more widely in the UK and in Europe, as part of a wider national and international research programme. The research includes a combination of environmental economic modelling, survey work and development of monitoring and evaluation tools and approaches. Specifically,...
- Agricultural Greenhouse Gases
The aim of this work is to develop novel approaches to improve the understating of environmental and management controls of nitrous oxide emissions from the soils, and to improve the estimation of methane emissions from grazing cattle and sheep. The work also aims to provide policy and practical guidelines to greenhouse gas mitigation in Scottish farming, through a wide process of engagement...
- Agricultural Greenhouse Gases