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27 December 2018



Scotland’s farmers need greater leadership and support from Scottish Government if they’re to adapt to the challenges of our rapidly changing climate, said environmental group WWF Scotland today (Thurs 27 Dec).


Earlier this year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C called for urgent, ‘game-changing’ action on greenhouse gas emissions if the world is to keep warming below the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C goal. [1]


Scotland is not immune to the impacts of our changing climate, with 2018 proving to be a year of extremes with the ‘Beast from the East’ delaying spring, and an unusually hot and dry summer bringing multiple challenges for our food producers.


Barley, Scotland’s biggest crop, was affected by the year’s extreme weather, as the difficult conditions led to a drop in the amount of cereals and oilseeds planted. Production of winter barley was down 24% and spring barley, the main ingredient in Scotch whisky, experienced a 6% fall in yield. Yield of wheat fell by 16%. 


Scotland’s hill farmers also felt the impacts of climate change as the combination of the unusually long winter and very dry summer affected the availability of fodder, and led to a spike in sheep losses.


Sheila George, Food and Environment Policy Manager at WWF Scotland said;


“We can no longer think about climate change as a problem other people are experiencing many miles away, it is happening right now in front of our eyes at home.


“The temperature extremes experienced this year, from the ‘Beast from the East’ to the prolonged hot, dry summer have had a major impact on farmers and on the food we can buy and eat.


“That’s why we believe there’s an urgent need for greater leadership and support from the Scottish Government to help farmers adapt and build resilience to climate change impacts in the face of increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather.  


Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland President, said:


“Scotland’s farmers are on the front line of experiencing the impacts of climate change, but since agriculture is also a source of greenhouse gas emissions, farmers and crofters have an important role to play in reducing emissions.


“Given the recent reports that emphasise the size of the challenge we face and the urgency with which we need to act, we believe that farmers and crofters are willing to play their part in our collective efforts to tackle climate change. Reducing emissions in farming will not, however, be easy or immediate. It will depend on new innovation and the application of the latest science and on achieving widespread change in practices in an industry made up of thousands of small businesses. The government will therefore have a key role in facilitating and supporting the industry in its efforts to reduce emissions.


“The Scottish Government puts great emphasis on leading the way in tackling climate change and it does already fund activity to help reduce emissions from farming, but there is so much more that it could do to work with and help Scotland’s farmers reduce emissions.”


Lynn Cassells, a crofter from the Highlands said:


“In the space of a year we experienced a period of extreme wet, followed by months of snow cover and then a long, hot summer where our water supply ran dry. This made our day to day farm operations very inconsistent as we faced new challenges prioritising our work and financial outlay.


“With climate change something we are now experiencing directly, our farm business model for the future must be based on long term resilience. That includes diversifying our products, integrated land use including more tree cover, improved water and soil management and working with natural processes and our environment to ensure the ongoing productivity and profitability of our rural enterprise in uncertain times ahead.”


Notes to Editors


[1] IPCC Special Report


[2] Scottish Government Agricultural Census


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