NFU Scotland’s president risked the wrath of environmentalists by appearing to question the existence of a climate change emergency and the benefits of planting more trees.
In his address to the union’s annual conference in Glasgow yesterday, Andrew McCornick likened the current language around climate change to a fire alarm and said farmers were being told they had to take urgent action but were being given no equipment or information on how to tackle it.
He said: “We need the tools and we need them sooner rather than later, and we need to know they work, or the call – hoax or not – was pointless.”
Later he claimed climate change was something the industry couldn’t understand.
“We’re being told it’s coming, but we can’t reach out and feel or touch it, so there have to be questions – is this real or are we just being told that?” said Mr McCornick. “Future policy will be determined by it, so therefore we need to accept it.
“Regardless of whether it’s true or not, we need the tools to tackle it as we have to reduce 75% of emissions by 2030, and that’s going to be a massive ask.”
Turning to the environmental benefits of afforestation, Mr McCornick claimed there was no scientific agreement on whether trees would warm or cool the planet and called for a holistic approach to policy.
“The tree model will displace the potential to grow food crops, livestock farming and the rich flora and fauna that grazing systems deliver with the associated employment and communities benefiting the national GDP (gross domestic product),” he said.
“In Scotland’s case it probably means importing food from somewhere that is deforesting.”
The union leader called for more funding for science, “not just to prove what we’re saying but to guide us what to do next”.