SNP and Green ministers have been told to draw up a strategy to encourage Scots to take up “climate-friendly diets” – as part of immediate action experts have demanded in ramping up the fight against the climate crisis.
A new report from the Climate Emergency Response Group (CERG) has also called for the Scottish Government to hold regular briefings to better inform Scots about the climate emergency and actions being taken.
During the height of the Covid-19 crisis, Nicola Sturgeon regularly fronted daily briefings.
The document has set out 12 immediate actions that CERG says must be “delivered at pace” – warning there is a need for minister to be “fast-tracking action on the ground to reduce emissions and build resilience” to the climate emergency.
Included in the blueprint for action is an appeal to “develop a definition, criteria, and public guidance on climate-friendly, sustainable, and healthy diets within the next 12 months”.
Ministers have also been told to “establish a multi-year programme of engagement with the public, farmers and food producers and processors to apply the guidance and ensure the ‘Sustainably Scottish’ brand includes climate-friendly criteria.”
The report also calls on the Scottish Government to “publish a vision and proposal for a new system of rural support and a detailed roadmap to provide the certainty, support and payments required to transition farming businesses and practices as soon as possible”.
Statutory advisers, the Climate Change Committee, has called for Scots to cut the amount of red meat they consume in order to contribute to emissions targets.
CERG steering group member, Sarah Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land Estates, said: “A sustainable, climate friendly diet is good for our health and good for the planet.
“However, consumers are confused about what food decisions they should make in the best interests of the planet and their own health. Therefore, guidance and practical advice is necessary for people to make informed choices.”
NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy, stressed that “Scotland’s farmers and crofters take their responsibilities on tackling the joint crises around climate change and biodiversity loss incredibly seriously”.
He added: “Just last week, we welcomed the announcement that the pioneering work undertaken by Scotland’s farmer-led climate change groups will drive the nation’s future agricultural policy.
“They each set out a clear industry-backed roadmap on how Scottish agriculture could deliver sustainable, profitable agricultural production that contributes to the nation’s ambitious food and drink sector targets, promotes local, healthy food procurement and meets the growing challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.
“Time is of the essence. The implementation board set up to drive forward policy will deliver an agreement on a national test programme in time for the COP26 climate change event being hosted in Glasgow in November with the scheme in place by spring 2022.
“The time for talking is over and the time for delivery on industry-led change and a new agricultural policy for Scotland is now.”
Speaking in Holyrood yesterday, Rural Affairs Secretary, Mairi Gougeon, said the Scottish Government is “aware of the need to consider the environmental impacts of our food consumption and production”.
She added: “Now more than ever, we need to produce our food in a way that protects the environment for future generations and safeguards our natural assets.
“This Government is absolutely committed to continuing to support the sustainable production of the world-class food that our farmers and crofters are famous for.”
The CERG report has also called for “regular leadership briefings to the nation in the run up to COP26 and beyond”, focusing on the climate crisis and the Scottish Government’s progress in driving action to net-zero and a green recovery from the pandemic.
Member of Scotland’s Climate Assembly evidence group and CERG steering group member, Daisy Narayanan, said: “Engagement across all of society is absolutely vital for a successful response to the climate emergency and there is an increasing public concern due to the recent incidences of extreme weather experienced in recent times.
“We have seen the benefit of regular communication and visible leadership throughout the Covid-19 crisis. We wish this to continue, with Scotland’s political leaders speaking with a clear unified voice, so everyone understands the urgency of the need to act.
“With world leaders gathered in November at COP26, this is a time like no other for Scotland to show it is serious about delivering on its ambitious climate targets.”
The report also calls for the Scottish Government to “increase the number, diversity and flexibility of low carbon work-based learning opportunities for school leavers, graduates, and the existing workforce”, and transform four Scottish cities with a community focus on reaching net zero.
Other actions include making the climate emergency central to all planning decisions and improve non-domestic buildings with sustainability measures.
Scottish Conservative energy, net zero and transport spokesperson, Liam Kerr, said: “It is little wonder this group are calling on the SNP Government to act with more urgency when it comes to tackling climate change.
“SNP ministers have missed key emission targets for three years in a row. Their warm words simply aren’t being backed up by the action needed to drive us towards net zero.
“While we all recognise the need to address the climate emergency, the right balance has to be struck.
“Our farmers are desperate to play their part in reducing emissions, but they don’t wish to keep hearing about a shift in diet away from the high-quality, local meat they produce.
“SNP ministers must continue to liaise with them and other key stakeholders to ensure that sustainable policies are introduced, as we ask everyone to do their bit.”
Scottish Labour’s net zero, energy and transport spokesperson, Monica Lennon, added: “This report is effectively a list of what the SNP have failed to do.
“When it comes to climate change they are big on spin but totally lacking in substance.
“Scotland needs bold and urgent action to tackle the climate and nature emergency. The SNP can’t waste anymore time.”
The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.