Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) chairman Jim McLaren said that will make it virtually impossible for the country’s farmers to produce beef and lamb.
“Moving to net zero GHG emissions would be absolutely devastating for our livestock industry,” he told an industry meeting at the Royal Highland Show.
“To achieve net zero emissions, in fact, Scotland would need to plant 16,000 hectares of new woodland each year, adopt GM crop technology and move to zero livestock production.”
Scotland has already adopted a world-leading target of cutting GHG emissions by 80% from 1990 levels, a figure considered as on the edge of being achievable.
Following the publication in May of a new climate change bill, however, farming leaders fear things could get even worse.
“We can end up copying Sweden, which, in tackling climate change concerns over the years, has succeeded in reducing its own food self-sufficiency from 90% in 1995 to just 50% today,” McLaren said.
“That means relying on imported food from many different countries, of course, some of which have poor animal and welfare standards and little awareness of GHG emissions.”
He was also fiercely critical of the totally inadequate system used to measure GHG emissions in agriculture, a system he said isn’t fit for purpose.
“At the core of every emission-reduction measure ever invented is the reduction of waste and the more efficient utilisation of resources.
“For farming that includes improvements in animal health and welfare, increased conception rates, more efficient use of fertilisers through soil testing, targeted lime application and a better use of grazed grass.
“Under the current GHG measuring system, however, all these factors are seen as increasing the farming industry’s carbon footprint even though we know as farmers that we are greatly reducing emissions per unit of production,” McLaren said.
Scottish Farm Minister Fergus Ewing said agriculture must play its part in achieving Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets.
But he would prefer a voluntary approach on climate changes issues.
“QMS is also right to point out that Scotland’s landscape and weather make us supremely suited to producing high-quality livestock and meat,” he said.
“We should be proud of that.”