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Natural Capital, Land and Carbon Round Table

For over 90 years SCDI, a not-for profit organisation, has brought people together around the challenging issues or opportunities of the day. In 1931 it was finding work for people in the wake of the Great Depression. Since then we’ve invested – in the Hillingdon Industrial Estate – and brought people together around issues as diverse as Sport, Trade, Oil, the Forth Crossing, the role of cities, independence, clean growth, innovation and business purpose.

We recognised the strategic importance of Scotland’s natural capital in our recent work. In our Manifesto for Clean Growth in 2020 we argued for investment in our natural capital including investing in peatland restoration. Our 2021 Economic Blueprint advocated for including Scotland’s natural capital in our national accounts and investing in the marine environment. It also advocated new approaches to carbon offsetting, which encourage and enable domestic or international firms to invest in certified permanent carbon offsetting activities in Scotland, should be explored to increase private investment in biodiversity and carbon storage through native tree planting or other projects.

Since these papers were published it has become clear that Scotland’s natural capital is increasingly being recognised as a global carbon offset opportunity. The Scottish Land Commission’s recent report confirms this with increases in non-farm purchases, rising farmland values and potentially competing conflicts from carbon offsetting, food production, leisure and forestry coming to the fore.

So, with the support of four partners we have kicked of a piece of work to consider the feasibility of an alternative model – one which gives communities more of a say and which offers investors another way to invest in Scotland’s natural capital.

Our nature-based carbon capture project will develop an outline business case for the creation of an independent organisation that would attract and co-ordinate investments in carbon sequestration and biodiversity in way that supports net zero carbon emission objectives, local economic and social objectives, for example housing, and environmental improvements. We will consider and consult widely on:

  • Existing and emerging models
  • The right scope and form of vehicle for investment
  • The right commercial model and type of land investment
  • The right mix of use and standards for carbon sequestration and biodiversity
  • Governance and auditing of carbon credits
  • Just transition – how to ensure community engagement and empowerment
  • Long-term plans for management/maintenance of our investments

We recognised the challenge in attempting to balance the competing needs and interests for Scotland’s land and natural capital in one vehicle. For example, the need for food security is something that has become more of a pressing issue. However, we owe it to communities in Scotland today and to future generations to try get this right. I’m optimistic that there is good practice out there we can learn from.