Tools rather than targets can help rural Scotland deliver more on climate change

Press Release

Tools to tackle climate change – not simply setting new targets – must be delivered quickly if rural Scotland is to fulfil its role in helping the planet avoid environmental catastrophe.

Mark Tennant, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), which represents rural businesses, made the comments at the organisation’s annual conference today which was sponsored by Barclays, Galbraith and Gillespie Macandrew.

The conference also featured a keynote speech by Lord Deben, chair of the Climate Change Committee.

Mr Tennant said rural businesses were already delivering in reducing emissions and storing carbon but there was a need to go further and faster.

Mark Tennant said: “Tools rather than targets now need to be delivered if we are to truly tackle climate change. We need government, business and society at every level to step up and alter their approach – and that includes Scotland’s rural businesses.

“This is a global problem but those who manage land are on the front line in creating change. Our rural businesses have already made substantial progress through increasing forestry and restoring our peatlands in order to lock up carbon and that is to be welcomed.

“However, we still see too much hope pinned on new technology riding to our planet’s rescue. We need honest discussion about cutting our carbon consumption as a society and about how domestic improvements in emissions often simply transfers pollution to other areas around the world.

“From our perspective working on Scotland’s land, we need standardised tools now to better understand and accurately measure the environmental impact of our business activities. We need an established carbon market and pricing structure. We need a collective approach – working hand in hand at a landscape level across regions and nations to deliver impactful measures that will sustain our planet for future generations.

“We know that COP26 is just around the corner but we cannot wait to make the necessary changes we need to make now. We now need more and more deliverables to enact change rather than simply setting targets for a decade and beyond.”

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive at Scottish Land & Estates, added: “At a national level, Scotland still has a siloed perspective on land use. Farming, forestry, energy, tourism and other land uses are all too often viewed in their individual boxes when we should be looking to more effectively integrate policy and activity to produce better environmental, social and also economic outcomes.

“Some progress has been made, for example the increase in agroforestry, continued installation of renewable energy on farms and estates, and multiple benefits being delivered from our uplands. However, policy and political narrative seems to lag behind what is happening on the ground.

“We have banged the drum for many years for integrated land management to help businesses increase biodiversity, improve soil quality and store carbon. Some great work is taking place but it is all too piecemeal – more could be achieved if we move to put in place a fully resourced Regional Land Use Partnership approach, and have a clear picture of the post CAP policy and funding framework. Long term land use decisions need to be taken now.”

Watch Mark Tennant's address to our Annual Conference 2021.