* Scotland already has fifth largest beef exports
* Green groups say still climate conscious
* But calls for curbs on total farming practices
By Nina Chestney
LONDON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - A new international group was launched on Tuesday to work on beef sustainability as Britain prepares to leave the European Union, supporting industry hopes of still having access to EU markets after Brexit.
Global companies, agricultural bodies and environmental campaigners have forged an agreement on how climate can be factored into the industry, aiming to act on perceived meat crisis.
Overall, Scotland already has the fifth largest beef exports to the EU, according to industry data, so this is a boon for its economy.
The new group, working with the Scottish Government and World Animal Protection, is aimed at developing a more solid basis for scientific dialogue about climate change in the sector.
“The group provides a platform for discussion and information exchange between those who believe in the merits of sustainable beef production and support these endeavours at the sector level,” the three co-chairs said in a statement.
“Its work will also focus on facilitating the sharing of information, information will focus on reducing impacts on biodiversity and environmental water and air quality in livestock farms and working to improve consumer understanding of animal welfare.”
Despite the historical importance of livestock farming, uptake of renewable energy for dairy production has risen more swiftly than beef and dairy farming, and the share of land devoted to this sector has risen.
The proportion of Scotland’s land that is dedicated to beef production has fallen since 1970s, from 45 percent to 29 percent.
Nonetheless, John Wilson, a professor in crop ecology and soil protection at the University of Edinburgh said on Tuesday it would still be possible to still attract new investments in a low carbon way.
“It’s not going to be easy, if you’re replacing an area which is used to produce huge amounts of carbon,” he told Reuters.
“If you’re trying to make a transition, from a carbon dioxide intensive species to one where it has a much lower CO2 output you need to be very careful. But I think... if it’s done right, that can be an attractive option.”
Frank von Schirnding, co-chair of the new group, said he welcomed the UK’s consultation process ahead of the vote for Brexit.
“High-quality agricultural and food products will always have a role to play in the economy and in society, but the way we produce them is now under the microscope,” he said.
The Scottish Government said last month that nearly all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by livestock are unaccounted for. (Reporting by Nina Chestney Editing by Edmund Blair)