Facing Up to Climate Change: 10 Years On | Land use and climate change

This paper compares the key findings from the RSE’s 2011 Report section on Land Use and Climate Change with those of the 2021 Farming for 1.5 Inquiry Report.

Over 80% of Scotland’s terrestrial areas are under “some form of agricultural management”. The land use challenges highlighted in the 2011 Report are similar to those listed in 2021, namely the high carbon footprint of agriculture, and the continuing decline in biodiversity.

The approaches highlighted in the 2011 Report (adaptation, mitigation, integration, increased knowledge, management, ecosystem services) re-emerge ten years later in the 2021 Farming for 1.5 Report. In addition, and importantly, we see refinement and disaggregation of those approaches, and we see new themes emerging due to advances in understanding in technology, soils, precision agriculture, animal breeding, feed and health.

Key new elements include:

  1. A disaggregation of greenhouse gases and associated plans for emissions control;
  2. More nuanced mitigation menu that brings together enhanced understanding of
    1. farmers’ management options according to their actual farm management systems and
    2. animal nutrition and breeding;
  3. The centrality of knowledge, science, networks and multiple agencies in creating and sustaining change.

Two key fundamental differences in emphasis between the Recommendations in 2011 and 2021 are that, firstly, 2011 places a focus on integrated systems, whereas 2021 also puts people and mindset-change at the centre. Secondly, human behavioural change needs to be underpinned by science, support and legislation, through collaboration.

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This publication is part of a follow-up series to the 2011 RSE inquiry, Facing Up to Climate Change.

A lot has happened over the subsequent ten years – and at the same time, not enough. While Scotland has made some progress towards meeting its world-leading emissions reduction targets, certain sectors remain in need of concerted and integrated action.

Facing up to climate change: 10 years on