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Research highlights million-pound opportunity from green recovery

Published: 29/11/2022

How carbon sequestration could impact community wealth building in Argyll and Bute.

Bute community forest

The potential of Argyll and Bute’s unique natural landscape to tackle carbon emissions could be worth millions to the local economy, according to new research launched today.

Scientific and economic research specialists have assessed the opportunities the area’s land and sea assets have to offer, and how community, private and public sector partners might unlock the widest local benefits from carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing, removing and storing excess CO2.

The multi-faceted research project has been managed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), for Argyll and Bute Council. It has been funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.

Stuart Black, Chief Executive of HIE, said: “Argyll and Bute’s geography, and impressive local skills base in marine, forestry and agriculture, mean it’s the perfect location to analyse the scale of the carbon market opportunity.  Our aim has been to develop a vision and methodology which maximises the benefits and addresses the barriers for communities and businesses. As well as providing a carbon sequestration blueprint for Argyll and Bute, the principles are transferable for Scotland’s other rural economies.”

The findings show that carbon sequestration offers opportunities for integrated place based economic development, especially for commercial and community landowners in agriculture, forestry and peatland.

By working together to develop projects for land management or peatland protection, action could deliver wide ranging environmental and local economy benefits through carbon credits - especially if integrated with wider considerations such as supply chain greening. As an example, restoring 10% of Argyll and Bute’s degraded peatland could deliver around £8m, and set aside of 10% of agricultural land for planting native woodland could deliver £16m, with both creating and supporting jobs.

Councillor Ross Moreland, Policy Lead for Climate Change and Environmental Services, Argyll and Bute Council, said: “The council is committed to working in partnership to create a climate friendly Argyll and Bute and achieve net zero by 2045. Carbon sequestration is an essential part of our ambitions as we look to improve the area’s natural environment. We will continue to work with partners to help restore peatlands and plant native forests and find innovative green solutions to help reduce emissions and unlock local economic potential.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord said: "This research shows Argyll and Bute has extensive potential for removing and storing carbon and protecting biodiversity. This could attract significant investment to the region which would benefit local communities by creating new green jobs. The UK Government has supported this as part of our £2 billion investment in projects to level up across Scotland."

A suite of nine documents provides in depth content including baseline audits, economic impact, scientific, funding platforms, modelling scenarios and implementation plans. 

The work has been delivered by the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) Enterprise, Imani Development, ekosgen, Azets, Caledonian Climate Ltd, and Galbraith. The reports are available in full here.  

Key findings include:

  • the best short-term opportunities come from woodland and peatland carbon codes;
  • as more carbon and natural capital markets develop, more of the area’s land and marine assets will be significant – including seagrass, seaweed, shellfish, hedgerow, soil and saltmarsh;
  • scenario modelling highlights the financial returns could range from £8.7m, based on restoring 10% of local degraded peatland, to more than £3bn when looking at longer-term high value integrated projects;
  • carbon sequestration activity, supported correctly, will not only stimulate the economy but can secure wider community and environmental benefits;
  • peatland and woodland projects are already underway. There are 855 hectares of woodland dedicated to projects, with more in planning.

Research recommendations call for an ongoing partnership approach to implement the best models and measures required to support carbon market facilitation as part of a wider approach to a values-led and high integrity natural capital market.