The potential for an agroecological approach in Scotland: policy brief

LJ Cole, JP Holland, Vera Eory, Alison Karley, Cathy Hawes, RL Walker, CA Watson

Research output: Book/Report/Policy Brief/Technical BriefCommissioned report


With Scotland facing the twin challenges of a climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, agroecology is receiving increasing attention as a farming approach that attempts to reconcile environmental, sustainability and food production goals. Across Scotland,agricultural systems have the potential to draw on agroecological principles and this report aims to help us understand this potential in the Scottish context.
Agriculture is facing unprecedented challenges in producing affordable nutritious food sustainably (IPES Food, 2016), conserving biodiversity (IPBES, 2019), and storing carbon, while coping with increased climate variability (IPCC, 2021).
Agricultural emissions will need to fall considerably to meet emissions targets, and this will require changes in how we manage and use our land. To ensure the future security of food supply, Scotland must rise to the global challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change, restoring biodiversity, and sustainably meeting future nutritional demands. These goals must be achieved alongside addressing the social and economic challenges of making healthy and nutritious food available to all.While often considered independently, these challenges are inherently linked and consequently an integrated approach is needed to address them (Arneth et al., 2020).
The industrialisation and globalisation of agriculture has resulted in modern farming systems that are efficient and high yielding; however, they have depleted natural resources and are identified as a key driver of biodiversity declines and climate change(Díaz et al., 2019, Shukla et al., 2019). These issues are intimately linked: the resilience of agroecosystems is compromised by environmental degradation (e.g. two-fold reduction in plant biomass and six-fold reduction in the biomass of wild marine and terrestrial mammals (Bar-On et al., 2018)) at a time when weather patterns are increasingly dominated by extreme events (IPCC, 2021).
There is a clear desire to transform our food production systems to consider social, economic and environmental performance under the changing climate. Focussing onenhancing sustainability and promoting wider societal benefits, the role that agroecology has in shaping future farming systems is becoming increasingly recognised (IPES Food, 2016; Wezel et al., 2020). Agroecological approaches are therefore well placed to help Scotland achieve targets such as:
 Protect and restore biodiversity: The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy: 2020
 Net zero emissions by 2045: The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019
 Sustainable land use: Scotland’s Third Land Use Strategy 2021-2026 - Getting the best from our land
 The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (
Original languageEnglish
PublisherScotland’s Rural College 2022 on behalf of ClimateXChange
Commissioning bodyClimateXChange
Publication statusPrint publication - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

© Published by Scotland’s Rural College 2022 on behalf of ClimateXChange. All rights reserved.


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