NICOLA Sturgeon’s government has been urged not to “rest on your laurels” following COP26 and focus attention on bringing forward action to support farmers to play a crucial part in tackling the climate crisis.

The Scottish Government is drawing up plans to replace the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy that set out support and benefits to farmers – but it is not expected to be introduced until 2023.

However, Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, has warned “we cannot afford to waste a day” in bringing forward action.

He added: “The Scottish Government may think that it’s had a pretty good COP. Well, don’t rest on your laurels because when you are back in your offices, you need to start doing stuff.”

He added that waiting until 2023 is not an option, as he called for action to be accelerated.

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He said: “Farmers, in this country too, are often on the front line of climate damage – we’ve seen it in the last few years of extreme weather impacting on barley crops and wiping out livestock for farmers. We’re going to see more of that.

“At the same time, agriculture, after transport, is the next biggest emitter and we’ve kind of left it for too long. We can’t wait to 2023 for the reforms to start happening. We have to see support and advice for farmers and get the advice services that already exist for farmers fit for purpose for net zero.

“That means putting the investment in, supporting farmers to engage in that.”

Mr Banks warned that a transition for farmers to more sustainable methods is as important as prioritising a just transition for oil and gas workers – insisting that “agricultural land is going to be one of our biggest assets”.

He added: “We now need to grasp this one because it’s been left to go for too long and agriculture and land use is now going to be the next big thing that Scotland needs to invest in and get right, otherwise we will definitely not be on track for our own targets.

“See it as an asset – see farmers as potential climate heroes in some respects in Scotland.

“We’ve seen renewables workers lauded, so how about transforming our farmers into the next climate heroes. They’ve got the assets but we need to support them to make sure they deliver food on our plates and help nature and help the climate.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said “agriculture is absolutely take a leading role” in efforts to halt the climate crisis.

She added: “On October 28, I announced a £51 million national test programme that will support our farmers and crofters to learn how their work impacts on climate and nature, and help us understand how sustainable farming can be supported and rewarded in future.

“That builds on a range of other support, including grants, advice and research, to deliver our vision for Scottish agriculture – to transform the sector to become a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture, delivering on our ambitious climate targets.”