Agriculture contributes to 18% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Scotland and is required to reduce its emissions by 31% from 2019 levels by 2032, according to the Scottish Government’s update to the Climate Change Plan.
Reductions to reach Scotland’s net zero GHG emissions targets can be achieved through mitigation and carbon sequestration measures implemented on farms. Taken together with options identified in the wider food chain and land use, such as dietary change, land use change and food waste reduction, there is clear potential to move food production closer to net zero.
This report provides an updated assessment of the emission reduction potential of the most effective mitigation measures in Scotland.
Researchers assessed 25 farm technologies, or 39 when considered for different livestock types, and practices that can reduce GHG emissions in Scotland by 2050 - modelling constraints required using 2050 instead of the net zero target of 2045, which is not excepted to impact mitigation as all the mitigation measures are fully implemented in the model by the early 2040s.
The measures were derived via a systematic process taking forward the most suitable options for Scotland for quantitative modelling, drawing from relevant UK and Scotland reports. Details of the agricultural activity scenarios used can be found in appendix B of the report.
- Assuming mitigation measures are taken by 45% of farmers, the total mitigation potential in 2050 is between 0.9 and 4.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2e). The mitigation attributable to changing practices and technologies on farms is between 0.4 and 0.9 Mt CO2e in 2050, while the remaining mitigation is due to reduced agricultural activity.
- The Tailwinds and Widespread Engagement activity scenario offer the highest total GHG reduction, most of it arising from reduced agricultural activity.
- The Business as Usual activity scenario, which includes no behavioural and technological changes, has the highest abatement potential on farms, consistent with this scenario having the largest dairy herd, grassland area and arable production, but offers the lowest overall GHG mitigation. However, reducing the land areas and livestock numbers, by increasing yield and reducing demand for livestock products, generates higher total abatement, considering uptake of the measures by 45% of farmers.
Five mitigation measures stand out as providing high emission reduction potential at negative or low abatement cost in most scenarios:
- Growing clover-grass mix instead of pure grass is the most cost-effective mitigation option and also one of the measures that offer the largest abatement.
- Using genomics in dairy breeding could provide net savings to the farmers and offers high emissions reduction potential in most scenarios.
- Increasing the beef output from dairy herds using sexed semen could offer considerable mitigation at zero net cost.
- Finishing beef animals faster is also cost effective and offers high mitigation.
- Using nitrate as a feed additive for beef costs less than the carbon price.
For further details about the findings and the overall study can be found in the report attached.