Climate Change and Scottish Agriculture: An End to the Freedom to Farm?



Published Dec 5, 2011
Alan Renwick Anita Wreford


As enshrined in the 2009 Climate Change Act, Scotland has one of the most ambitious and binding targets for greenhouse gas reductions in the world. By 2050 it has committed to reducing emissions by 80%, with an interim target of 42% by 2020. The agricultural sector is a significant source of emissions within Scotland and therefore has been set a specific target – to achieve a 1.3 mt reduction by 2020. The approach adopted within Scotland to achieve these targets can be defined as a Voluntary Environmental Programme involving actions focussed on extension and incentives. Improving the efficiency of the agricultural sector is seen as the primary way to reduce emissions, thereby placing little or no constraint on the development of farm businesses. Following the method for classifying policy actions developed by Pannell, the approach adopted is shown to be appropriate (with certain caveats) given the nature of the changes required and the impact on private firms and wider society. However, fundamental challenges are shown to exist in actually relying on this approach in practice. These relate to achieving the required levels of participation and the monitoring and measurement of the proposed changes to farming practices. The industry’s response to the 2007–2008 food price spike bears witness to the fact that even if these challenges are overcome, any gains made are susceptible to changes in practice and land use driven by an improved market situation. For these reasons, the article concludes that tighter restrictions are likely to be placed on farms to ensure that the targets are met and these are likely to constrain the choices of land managers.

How to Cite

Renwick , A. and Wreford, A. 2011. Climate Change and Scottish Agriculture: An End to the Freedom to Farm? . The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. 18, 3 (Dec. 2011), 181-198. DOI:
Abstract 27 | PDF Downloads 22


ACCSG (Agriculture and Climate Change Stakeholder Group) (2008) Final Report and Recommendations.
Published online , accessed 15 December
ADAS (2008) Investigating the Role and Effectiveness of Scottish Monitor Farms. Wolverhampton: ADAS. Published
online , accessed 15 December
ADAS (2009) Analysis of Policy Instruments for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agriculture, Forestry
and Land Management, Defra report RMP/5142. Wolverhampton: ADAS.
Adger, W.N., Agrawa la, S., Mirza, M.M.Q., Conde, C., O’Brien, K., Pulhin, J., Pulwa rty, R., Smit, B. and
Takahashi, K. (2007) Assessment of adaptation practices, options, constraints and capacity, in: M.L.
Parry, O.F. Canziana, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds) Climate Change 2007:
Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , pp. 717–743.
Barnes, A.P. and Toma, L. (2011). A typology of dairy farmer perceptions towards climate change, Climatic
Change, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0226-2.
Borck, J.C. and Coglianese, C. (2009) Voluntary environmental programs: assessing their effectiveness,
Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 34, pp. 305–324.
Brouhle, K, Griffiths, C. and Wolverton, A. (2004) The Use of Voluntary Approaches to Environmental Policy
Making in the US, Working Paper No. 04-05. Washington, DC: US Environmental Protection Agency,
National Center for Environmental Economics.
Burt, S.L. and Sparks, L. (2003) Power and competition in the UK retail grocery market, British Journal of
Management, 14(3), pp. 237–254.
Burton, R.J.F. and Paragahaw ewa , U.H. (2011) Creating culturally sustainable agri-environmental
schemes, Journal of Rural Studies, 27, pp. 95–104.
Burton, R.J.F, Kuczera, C. and Schwa rz, G. (2008) Exploring farmers’ cultural resistance to voluntary agrienvironmental
schemes, Sociologia Ruralis, 48(1), pp. 17–37.
Defra (2009) British Survey of Fertiliser Practice. Published online /statistics/foodfarm/enviro/fertiliserpractice/documents/2009.pdf>, accessed 3 January 2011.
Evans, N., Morris, C. and Winter, M. (2002) Conceptualising agriculture: a critique of post-productivism
as the new orthodoxy, Progress in Human Geography, 26(3), pp.313–332.
Farming Futures (2008) Farmers being challenged on their environmental performance. Published online
accessed 10 December 2010.
Feder, G. and Umali, D.L. (1993) The adoption of agricultural innovations: a review, Technological Forecasting
and Social Change, 43, pp. 215–239.
Gbetibouo, G.A. (2009) Understanding Farmers’ Perceptions and Adaptations to Climate Change and Variability:
The Case of the Limpopo Basin, South Africa. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
Gunningham, N. and Sinclairi, D. (2002) Voluntary Approaches to Environmental Protection: Lessons from the
Mining and Forestry Sectors. Presented at OECD Global Forum on International Investment conference
on ‘Foreign Direct Investment and the Environment’, Paris, 7–8 February.
Gwimbi, P. (2009) Cotton farmers’ vulnerability to climate change in Gokwe District (Zimbabwe): impact
and influencing factors, Journal of Disaster Risk Studies, 2, pp. 81–92.
Harrington, L.M.B. and Lu, M. (2002) Beef feedlots in South Western Kansas: local change, perceptions,
and the global change context, Global Environmental Change, 12, pp. 273–282.
Hahn, R.W. (1989) Economic prescriptions for environmental problems: how the patient followed the
doctor’s orders, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 3(2), pp. 95–114.
Hatch M. (2005) Assessing environmental policy instruments: an introduction, in: Environmental Policymaking:
Assessing the Use of Alternative Policy Instruments. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Published online
, accessed December 10th 2010.
Hollowa y, L.E. and Ilbery, B.W. (1996) Farmers’ attitudes towards environmental change, particularly
global warming, and the adjustment of crop mix and farm management, Applied Geography, 16, pp.159–
Howden, S.M., Soussana, J.-F., Tubiello, F.N., Chhetri, N., Dunlop, M. and Meinke, H. (2007) Adapting
agriculture to climate change, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 104, pp. 19691–19696.
Iglesias, A., Avis, K., Benzie, M., Fisher, P., Harley, M., Hodgson, N., Horrocks, L., Moneo, M. and Webb, J.
(2007) Adaptation to Climate Change in the Agricultural Sector, AGRI-2006-G4-05. Didcot: AEA Energy and
Environment. Published online , accessed on 15 December 2010.
Ilbery, B. and Bowler, I. (1998) From agricultural productivism to post-productivism, in: B. Ilbery (ed.) The
Geography of Rural Change, London: Longman, pp. 57–84.
Krarup, S. (2001) Can voluntary approached ever be efficient?, Journal of Cleaner Production, 9, pp. 135–144.
Lindner, R.K. (1987) Adoption and diffusion of technology: an overview, in: B.R. Champ, E. Highley and
J.V. Remenyi (eds) Technological Change in Postharvest Handling and Transportation of Grains in the Humid
Tropics, Canberra ACT: ACIAR, pp. 144–151.
Lochhead, R. (2010) NFUS 2010 AGM Speech, 19 February. Published online at .uk/News/Speeches/Speeches/Greener/nfus-speech>, accessed 10 December 2010.
MacLeod, M., Ekins, P., Vanner, R. and Moran, D. (eds) (2009) Understanding the Costs of Regulation in the
EU. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
MacLeod, M., Moran, D., Eory, V., Rees, R.M., Barnes, A., Topp, C.F.E., Ball, B., Hoad, S., Wall, E., McVittie,
A., Pajot, G., Matthews, R., Smith, P. and Moxey, A. (2010) Developing greenhouse gas marginal
abatement cost curves for agricultural emissions from crops and soils in the UK, Agricultural Systems,
103(4), pp.198–209.
Maddison, D.J. (2007) The Perception of and Adaptation to Climate Change in Africa, World Bank Policy Research
Working Paper No. 4308. Published online =1005547>, accessed 15 December 2010.
Mather, S., Hill, G. and Nijnikb, M. (2006) Post-productivism and rural land use: cul de sac or challenge
for theorization?, Journal of Rural Studies, 22, pp. 441–455.
Mathijs, E. (2003) Social capital and farmers’ willingness to adopt countryside stewardship schemes, Outlook
on Agriculture, 32, pp. 13–16.
Mertz, O., Mbow, C. Reenberg, A. and Diouf, A. (2009) Farmers’ perceptions of climate change and agricultural
adaptation strategies in Rural Sahel, Environmental Management, 43, pp. 804–816.
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry New Zealand (2010) A Guide to Agriculture in the Emissions Trading
Scheme. Wellington: MAF.
Moran, D., Macleod, M., Wall, E., Eory V., McVittie, A., Barnes, A., Rees, R., Topp, C.F.E. and Moxey, A.
(2010) Marginal abatement cost curves for UK agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, Journal of Agricultural
Economics, 62, pp. 93–118.
Morris, C. and Potter, C. (1995) Recruiting the new conservationists: farmers’ adoption of agri-environmental
schemes in the UK, Journal of Rural Studies, 11, pp. 51–63.
National Farmers Union (1998) Memorandum to Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee.
Published online /112617.htm>, accessed 15 December 2010.
National Farmers Union of Scotland (2008) Response to Consultation on Climate Change (Scotland) Bill.
Ingliston: NFU Scotland.
National Farmers Union of Scotland (2009) Response to Consultation on Forestry and Climate Change. Ingliston:
NFU Scotland.
National Farmers Union of Scotland (2010) Submission to House of Lords Inquiry into the Adaption of Agriculture
and Forestry to Climate Change: The EU Response. Ingliston: NFU Scotland.
National Farmers Union of Scotland, Quality Meat Scotland and SAOS (2010) Producing More with Less:
A Joint Industry Commitment on Climate Change. Published online , accessed 4 January 2011.
Observer (2008) Eco-farming ditched as food prices soar, Observer, 28 May, published online
, accessed 15 December 2010.
Pannell, D.J. (2008) Public benefits, private benefits and policy mechanism choice for land use change for
environmental benefits, Land Economics, 84(2), pp.225–240.
Renwick, A.W, Ball, A.S. and Pretty, J.N. (2002) Economic, biological and policy constraints on the adoption
of carbon farming in temperate regions, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 360, pp.
1721–1740 .
Scottish Government (2009a) Climate Change Delivery Plan: Meeting Scotland’s Statutory Climate Change
Targets. Edinburgh: HMSO. Published online /18103720/7>, accessed 10 December 2010
Scottish Government (2009b) Scotland’s Climate Change Adaptation Framework. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.
Published online , accessed
10 December 2010.
Scottish Government (2009c) Rural Land Use Study. Published online <
/Topics/farmingrural/Rural/rural-land/land-use-study>, accessed 10 December 2010.
Scottish Government (2010a) Adapting to Climate Change: Consultation on the Environmental Impacts of Adaptation.
Published online , accessed
4 January 2011.
Scottish Government (2010b) Getting the Best from Our Land: A Draft Land Use Strategy for Scotland. Published
online , accessed 15 December
Scottish Government (2010c) A Vision for Scottish Agriculture. Published online>, accessed 10 December 2010.
Scottish Government (2011) Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting the Emissions Reduction Targets 2010–2022: The
Report on Proposals and Policies. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.
SEI (Stockholm Environment Institute) (2009) The Need for Sound Carbon Accounting in Scotland. Published
online , accessed 10
December 2010.
Smith, K., Law rence, G. and Richards, C. (2010) Supermarkets’ governance of the agri-food supply chain:
is the ‘corporate-environmental’ food regime evident in Australia?, International Journal of Socciology of
Agriculture and Food, 17(2), pp. 140–161.
SRPBA (Scottish Rural Property and Business Association) (2008) Response to consultation on Climate Change
(Scotland) Bill. Musselburgh: SRPBA.
US EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) (2010) CAP and Trade. Published online>, accessed 4 January 2011.
UK CCC (UK Climate Change Committee ) (2008) Building a Low-carbon Economy: The UK’s Contribution to Tackling
Climate Change. Published online my>, accessed 4 January 2011.
Ward, N., Jackson, P., Russell, P. and Wilkinson, K. (2008) Productivism, post-productivism and European
agricultural reform: the case of sugar, Sociologia Ruralis, 48(2), pp. 119–132.
Wilson, G.A. (1996) Factors influencing farmer participation in the environmentally sensitive areas
scheme, Journal of Environmental Management, 50, pp. 67–93.
Wilson, G.A. (2007) Multifunctional Agriculture: A Transition Theory Approach. Oxford: CABI.
Wilson, G.A. and Hart, K. (2001). Farmer participation in agri-environmental schemes: towards conservation-
orientated thinking?, Sociologia Ruralis, 41, pp. 254–274.
Wu, J. and Babcock, B.A. (1999). The relative efficiency of voluntary versus mandatory environmental
regulations, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 38, pp. 158–175.