Climate change and carbon law: farmers in Scotland have experienced the effects of the changing climate and our rural businesses are showing themselves to be innovative and enterprising when dealing with changes such as emerging consumer trends.
The rural sector is viewed as key to the transition to a net-zero economy because it is well-placed to remove C02 from the atmosphere through afforestation, peatland restoration, carbon capture and other initiatives.
Climate change law is an increasing challenge for all organisations and the passing of the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 will impact rural businesses in many ways. The Act received Royal Assent on 31 October 2019 and enables the Scottish Government to set targets for the process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Act reflects an increasing public awareness of climate change and acceptance that policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can also have other positive outcomes for the populace such as health and wellbeing.
Headlines focused on the climate emergency declared by the First Minister and the 2045 national target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, but the target-setting criteria will be key for each sector of the economy. The criteria include European and international law and policy, scientific knowledge, technology, energy policy and the likely impact on those living in remote rural and island communities.
What does this mean for the rural sector?
For land-based businesses currently seeking clarity and stability, there is a wider context of environmental, productivity, social and national strategic challenges.
There is pressure on Scotland’s high-quality food and drink producers to make a step change in the net contribution of agriculture to the United Kingdom and we are seeing projects taking place across the country trialling and sharing new ideas with the aim of developing a more collaborative, sustainable and resilient agricultural industry.
Land management will have a crucial role to play in sequestering carbon and reducing emissions while also producing high-quality sustainable food and the Scottish Land & Estates publication #Route2050 – A direction of travel for Scottish land management to 2050 was published in September with the intention of sparking conversations and stimulating debate.
The actions that the Scottish Government will take to achieve a low-carbon economy are to be set out in an updated climate change plan. The first plan indicates that there will be new opportunities in Scotland for renewables, transport and carbon capture and storage.
A system of support will be required for land businesses during the transition to net-zero that is sensitive to sector ambition and geography/region and rewards efficiency and outcomes. SL&E wants to see: more work to enable rural businesses to understand their carbon footprint and ways to reduce it; increased access to skills training and knowledge for improving resource use efficiency; access to capital and knowledge to improve productivity and resilience; and improved use of data by government and business to target investment.
Resilience and opportunities for growth
We are already seeing recognition by banks, funds and investors that businesses that are able to manage environmental, social and governance factors such as climate change risks are more likely to be resilient and successful in future.
Changes in our carbon-producing industries in the form of carbon management or climate change initiatives such as energy efficiency regimes present challenges for businesses, but there will also be opportunities for growth through clear legal thinking, innovation and development.
At Anderson Strathern, our Rural Land & Business lawyers understand how climate change affects your business and how best to maximise the opportunities that the transition to a low-carbon economy presents.
This article appears in the Scottish Land & Business Winter 2019 issue.
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