SAC Wins Top UK Award For Climate Change Research

A groundbreaking SAC-led research project which helps farmers, land managers and foresters choose the most cost effective ways of reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, has won a prestigious Green Gown Award. The Green Gown Awards have become established as the most significant recognition of best practice within the further and higher education sector and reward exceptional initiatives linked to sustainability.

Commenting on the award, a delighted SAC Chief Executive and Principal Professor Bill McKelvey said,

“I wish to congratulate all those involved, both staff and research partners. SAC is a respected contributor to research and advice on the challenges of climate change across a range of rural sectors. This recognition by our peers can only enhance our reputation and the reputation of Scottish science. This work has already been used by the farming industry, the UK and Scottish Governments in developing mitigation strategies”. 

The SAC work, led by Dr Dominic Moran, produced a robust method by which those involved in land management can decide which of the technically feasible ways of reducing their GHG emissions will be most effective and economically efficient. While forests and farmland can play an important role in storing carbon, the agriculture, land use and forestry sectors are responsible for a significant proportion of the UK’s GHG emissions. Previously it had not been easy to decide which emission control strategy was the best option. The team produced “Marginal Cost Abatement Curves” which allow calculations to be made through to 2022.

According to Dr Moran,

“Previous attempts to make estimates of mitigation potential had been difficult to assess. Our work describes in detail how we arrived at our conclusions. This transparency allows others to challenge it, which only increases the confidence in our methodology. It also allows comparison with other sectors like transport and power. Our curve identifies where the win-wins are for the sectors and which options would cost more than they would save”.

“I am delighted with this award and especially pleased for the team. This proves the value of the cross disciplinary cooperation both within SAC and our research partners. It is an approach SAC believes in and is a key strength. Already this work has led to 6 more projects, funded by the UK Committee on Climate Change, DEFRA and Scottish Government. It allows them to develop policy based on existing evidence”. 

The project was commissioned by the UK CCC, with funding from UK Government and the devolved administrations including Scottish Government. The project required close collaboration by specialists in environmental economics, soil science, livestock science, plant breeding, forestry and life cycle analysis. Dominic Moran paid tribute to SAC colleagues and contributors from the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, University of Aberdeen, Pareto Consulting and Cranfield University.

Mark Batho, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: "I am delighted that the Scottish Agricultural College has won this award against stiff competition from the rest of the UK. This demonstrates the quality of the sustainable developments and programmes that the College is producing and their commitment to this important area."

SAC had two nominations at the Green Gown Awards. The other was in the “Courses” category which featured SAC’s innovative Post Graduate and MSc Organic Farming Courses which can be completed part-time through online, distance learning. Led in Aberdeen by Dr Norman Stephen the approach was designed to suit the needs of the industry, where flexibility is required. It attracts farmers, growers, consultants, vets, inspectors and researchers. The average age of entrants is 39 with the oldest graduate 65.

“These were our first entries to the Green Gown Awards, to be nominated in both categories is a great tribute to the quality of SAC’s staff and the work they do. It is also a recognition of our standing amongst other UK academic institutions”, said SAC Principal Bill McKelvey. 

Published on 02 July 2010 in Climate, water and energy