COMMUNITY Land Scotland has published “The Credibility Gap for Green Finance”, new research and analysis which critiques the ‘green finance gap’.
The report is written by Jon Hollingdale, an independent forestry and land use consultant and researcher who has worked in Scottish community forestry since 1999.
The research challenges claims that Scotland must rely on private enterprise and high net worth individuals to ensure nature recovery.
Earlier this year, NatureScot and the Scottish Greens minister, Lorna Slater, announced that a deal had been agreed that would unlock £2bn in loans from private investors to help fund forestry and peatland restoration. They argued that investment could plant 457,000 acres of woodland, storing 28m tonnes of CO2 over the next 30 years. This would be equivalent to half Scotland’s annual CO2 emissions.
Community Land Scotland (CLS) said, “Hollingdale’s research is a timely intervention into the debate about how Scotland meets its rightly ambitious nature targets. We share Jon’s unease at the widespread acceptance of the Green Finance Institute (GFI) £20bn ‘finance gap for Scottish nature’ and the corresponding impact this is having upon the Scottish land market and our national response to the climate and biodiversity crises. In the spirit of promoting transparency and encouraging new insights and a deeper debate about important land-related policy issues we are pleased to jointly publish the paper with the Forest Policy Group.”
The group says that Hollingdale’s paper raises serious questions around both the calculations reported by GFI, and the use of these figures to move the impetus of Scotland’s response to the climate crisis from the public to the private sector.
Their shared concern is that privatising the response in this way will be ineffective in tackling climate change and have a further inflationary impact upon the Scottish land market, with potential negative effects on the delivery of Scottish Government commitments to ambitious land reform, a Just Transition to Net Zero and Community Wealth Building.
CLS says they have expressed their own concern about the potential impacts of unregulated carbon trading where private finance is being encouraged to take a leading role. Hollingdale’s paper offers different insights to future funding needs than those in the report the Green Finance Institute published.
Ailsa Raeburn, Chair of Community Land Scotland “I hope [Hollingdale’s] paper helps to further shed new light on the ongoing public debate about how Scotland reaches its climate commitments, that we understand any upsides and the downsides to utilising large scale private finance and, in an unregulated environment, we guard against a rush to monetise Scotland’s natural assets which risks leaving its people and communities behind. As that debate develops the Scottish Government and Nature Scot have a key role to play in furthering a well-informed debate about future land and climate policy and in Community Land Scotland, they will find a willing partner in transparently exploring the options and possibilities.”
Willie McGhee, non-executive Director with the Forest Policy Group “[Hollingdale’s] paper highlights that a natural capital lens can depict Scotland’s land and environment as a speculative opportunity, a means to attract significant private capital and to maximize returns from altering land and changing the environment. This financial perspective has resulted in inflated land prices, is attracting opportunist investors, and has resulted in more remote absentee forest ownership. FPG welcomes [these] insights into some of the economic and climate change anomalies underlying what appear to be overly inflated projections for green finance.”