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If Scottish farmers are to address the climate emergency, they need fair trade deals

If Scottish farmers are to address the climate emergency, they need guarantees that they will not be undercut by cheap, environmentally damaging imports from abroad, says John Finnie, Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands.

The recently published Farming for 1.5C report highlighted two important truths that industry and Government need to reckon with urgently.

 

The first is that agriculture is a significant contributor to emissions in Scotland.

 

The second is that as the climate crisis deepens, farmers and crofters’ ability to make a living will be hit hard.

 

The independent inquiry brought together farmers, vets, economists and climate scientists to discuss not just the challenges of slashing agricultural emissions, but the huge opportunities as well.

 

Their report makes a range of recommendations which will now be studied and considered by policy makers, farmers and crofters.

 

Central

 

But the central point is that in order to achieve the necessary transformational change, Government, at all levels, will need to invest and support the industry every step of the way.

 

The Scottish Government will, later this year, publish its updated Climate Change plan, which will lay out in detail the cuts to emissions each sector needs to make if we are to have any hope of meeting our climate targets.

 

Targets are good, but they must come alongside meaningful support or else they are of little use.

 

Too often, climate targets have been set and missed because the concrete action wasn’t there to back up the talk.

 

That can’t happen again.

 

Churlish

 

However, despite that, it would be churlish not to acknowledge the Scottish Government is operating in an extremely challenging context.

 

The imminent end of the transition period will mark our full withdrawal from the EU and the intransigent Tory Government in Westminster continues to be completely disinterested in sustainable Scottish agriculture.

 

Boris Johnson has spent much of his premiership cosying up to Donald Trump and desperately seeking a trade deal with the USA.

 

A trade deal which flooded the UK market with cheap, environmentally-damaging produce would force Scottish farmers and crofters to slash their own standards to compete.

 

The agricultural practices which result in the cheap American produce Johnson seems so keen to bring to Scotland are exactly what this independent inquiry’s report warns against.

 

Impossible

 

The Tories’ policy put farmers in an impossible position.

 

Either protect the future of the industry by adapting to climate friendly farming, but suffer the economic consequences of competing with cheap imports, or slash environmental and animal welfare standards and accelerate the climate emergency which will soon cause havoc for farmers.

 

There is no doubt farmers and crofters have an enormous role to play in addressing the climate emergency.

 

It is vital for the industry and the country at large that they are provided with extensive support to do so.

 

That help won’t come from the Tories, so the work must be done here to secure a future for farming and crofting.

 

John can be found tweeting at @JohnFinnieHI

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