Author: Oscar Pusey, Junior Analyst at Zero Carbon Academy
£250,000 has been allocated by the Scottish government to cover the cost of climate upskilling for Scottish farmers and land managersAgriculture emissions declining far slower than overall UK average.
Since 1990, UK emissions of greenhouse gases have fallen by 49%, yet in the agricultural sector emissions have only fallen by 16%.[i],[ii] Whilst the reasons for this may be complex and varied, the UN have made it clear that “delaying action” could result in “irreversible impacts on some ecosystems.".[iii] It has also been pointed out that agriculture is one of the most vulnerable industries to the climate crisis- temperature and rainfall changes, outbreaks of pests, illnesses, and more frequent extreme weather events will all have an impact. By extension this will negatively affect food supply and security around the world.[iv] The Scottish government have subsequently made their intentions of working with the agriculture industry towards the mutually beneficial goal of tackling the climate crisis.[v]
SkillSeeder to provide new climate crisis mitigation credentials
Aiming to alleviate the issues faced from climate change, the Scottish government has announcedthat any Scottish person aged over 13 can apply for a £500 grant that will cover the cost of SkillSeeder courses. The hope is to improve the knowledge of farming communities on soil health, peatland and wetland restoration. Increasing biodiversity and reducing carbon footprints.[vi] Explaining the rationale behind the scheme, Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said:
“We know that we need to work together to meet our climate change ambitions, especially as we transition to sustainable agriculture in rural Scotland”“So we want to empower people in our remote and rural communities by helping them get the skills required to address the emergencies facing the climate and nature and support a green recovery.”[vii]
Source: Holyrood magazine
The SkillSeeder courses will earn participants a “climate change badge” that will show that they’re ready and willing to “play their part in making a difference for Scotland”.[viii] The program is administered by Lantra Scotland (a charity that helps those in land-based, aquaculture and environmental sectors) access training and qualifications. On the value and importance of verified expert training advice, Dr Liz Barron-Majerik (director of Lantra Scotland) said:
"Even a minor change can be relatively high risk. So being able to find and access training, specific to the needs of the individual or business, is very important."[ix]
The SkillSeeder scheme follows projects such as the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme. John Matheson, a third-generation sheep producer at Milton of Aberarder, near Inverness told Farmers Guardian how it opened up his mind to a broader way of thinking about the farm:
“The opportunity for discussions with other likeminded people was both useful and enjoyable, and I also valued working with people in the wider rural sector. The experience encouraged me to take stock of the business. Diversification was one of the subjects covered and we may look at agri-tourism and another use for wool in the future.”[x]
High impact for small, rural communities
A £500 grant for individuals as a method of tackling arguably the most pressing issue of our time (the climate crisis) may seem humble, but it is worth remembering that many remote highland communities are farming on a small scale and remain greatly vulnerable to wider issues faced in farming, such as price fluctuations, livestock loss, and crop failure. With this in mind, schemes such as this provide a valuable and important opportunity for individuals to facilitate change on a local scale, as well as help to future-proof their line of work, as far as is possible.
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