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Balanced approach needed to ensure communities benefit from carbon offsetting

Published: 31/03/2022

Planting trees and plants and restoring wildlands to offset greenhouse gas emissions could generate significant benefits for rural communities, according to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Planting trees and plants and restoring wildlands to offset greenhouse gas emissions could generate significant benefits for rural communities, according to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

The development agency, whose remit includes community development across a region that covers more than half of Scotland, has welcomed publication of new Scottish Government guidance on the use of land for carbon sequestration.

The guidance sets out six interim principles to guide responsible investment by communities, investors, landowners, public bodies and others. These state that investment should:

  • Support diverse and productive land ownership
  • Deliver integrated land use
  • Deliver public, private and community benefit
  • Demonstrate engagement and collaboration
  • Be ethical and values-led
  • Be of high environmental integrity

Douglas Cowan, HIE director of communities and place, says a balanced approach is needed to maximise the benefits from investment in natural capital while also minimising the risk of unintended consequences.

“The transition to a net zero economy presents great opportunities for communities as well as businesses in all parts of the Highlands and Islands,” he said.

“A core part of our purpose as a development agency is to support communities to acquire, manage and have a say in how natural assets are used to generate social, environmental  and economic benefits.

“In a greener economy, communities stand to benefit through changes in supply chains, local business investment and through a potential revenue stream for community land owners. 

“The use of land for carbon offsetting is not new, but interest is growing rapidly and it’s important that we understand all the potential impacts this could have, particularly for rural communities.

“Private investment will play a vital role in addressing climate change and enhancing biodiversity, but it does need to be governed by clear principles to help generate social, economic and environmental benefits.

“We’re very pleased that the Scottish Government has published these six principles that will help to balance responsible market growth with the need to tackle the climate emergency and transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and partner bodies to apply these principles in our activities and develop best practice over the coming years.”

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