Chapter 11.2.1 Direct emissions reductions

Increase carbon content of soils

Set a target date to halt the loss of soil carbon, and establish a target to increase soil carbon.

UK Govt
Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
Emissions reduction
Behaviour change

Soils can store carbon. The Climate Change Plan does not focus on boosting the carbon content of Scotland’s farmed soils despite Soil Organic Carbon in arable and horticultural soils declining by 9.3% between 1998 and 2007.267 Despite this there is no policy in place to start to reduce these losses and ultimately increase soil carbon levels. There are several measures appropriate for Scottish farming that can be implemented to increase soil carbon including not leaving soil bare , nourishing the soils with manure and compost, and planting trees and legumes.

Recent research suggests that while there is the potential to increase soil carbon, it is very easy to lose it through management practices that damage the soil, thus suggesting that the focus should be on protecting soil carbon stocks. Nevertheless, specifically setting out to increase soil carbon would represent a positive step and encompass the protection of soil carbon stocks. A modest target to increase sequestration in soils would require research to identify the current position, establishing a monitoring regime to allow an assessment of progress, and a set of policies to encourage management to improve soil carbon.

For further information:


UKCCRA – 9.3% is a statistically significant decline (from 35.6g/kg to 32.3 g/kg);

Version 1.0: September 2023

The contents of this document will be updated on a regular basis.