Protocol launched for responsible investment in natural capital
Responsible management of land for natural capital essential for a just transition, says land reform body.
The Scottish Land Commission has today issued a new protocol on responsible natural capital and carbon management.
In a bid to meet the country’s net zero targets, Scotland’s land provides a huge opportunity for investment in natural capital activity such as tree planting and peat restoration, presenting both benefits and risks for businesses, communities and the economy.
As a result, the Scottish Land Commission has published a new protocol setting out practical expectations for new and existing landowners, managers and investors to ensure that their approach to natural capital and carbon management recognises their responsibilities, as well as their rights, in relation to land and contributes to a just transition.
Hamish Trench, Chief Executive of the Scottish Land Commission, said: “The newly published protocol builds on existing, crucial work to ensure Scotland’s net zero targets are met while benefitting communities, landowners and businesses fairly.
“There is no need to wait for market regulation or new legislation, change in practice can happen now. The protocol will help landowners, investors and communities take a responsible approach in what is a rapidly developing sector of land use and investment.”
The protocol is part of a suite that has been published by the Scottish Land Commission to support the practical implementation of the Scottish Government’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS). Together they are helping drive improved transparency, accountability and governance of Scotland’s land.
The protocol helps put into practice the Scottish Government’s Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital, announced by Land Reform Minister Màiri McAllan earlier this year, to deliver a values-led, high-integrity market for responsible investment in natural capital.
Environment and Land Reform Minister Màiri McAllan said: “Investment in Scotland’s natural capital is vital to tackle the climate and nature emergencies – but we must ensure that our people and communities are not disadvantaged and indeed can benefit from this opportunity.
“This new protocol, alongside our Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital, will help us to focus investment in the right types of natural capital in the right places such as in nature-based solutions, like peatland restoration and woodland creation, which bring benefits for the environment, the economy and society as a whole.
“We are currently consulting on proposals for our ambitious new Land Reform Bill which will be introduced by the end of 2023, and will be another significant step forward in ensuring our land is owned, managed and used in the public interest and to the benefit of the people of Scotland.
“In the interim we will continue to work closely with the Scottish Land Commission to encourage and support responsible and diverse landownership and ensure communities have a say in how land in is used.”
Among the expectations set out by the Commission is that landowners and managers should engage with communities on land decisions before actioning, so that the communities are able to influence the decisions made. Communities and local economies should also benefit from the management of natural capital in ways which support local priorities and aspirations.
The protocol also highlights how existing natural capital owned by landowners should be protected and enhanced alongside the development of any other carbon activities and that investment in carbon management to offset emissions should always be made in addition to action to reduce emissions at source as close to zero as possible.
Hamish Trench added: “We’ve worked closely with stakeholders to develop a protocol that sets out practical expectations for ownership, use and decisions. Using it should maximise the opportunity while minimising the risk of Scotland’s changing landscape and contribute to a just transition.
“When managed responsibly, there is real opportunity for Scotland’s land and natural capital to create positive social, environmental and economic impacts. There are some great examples already where landowners, investors and communities are providing leadership and this protocol seeks to help make this the norm by ensuring the long-term benefits are shared fairly by all.”
The protocol will be discussed in depth at the Scottish Land Commission’s upcoming Natural Capital and Land online event being held on Wednesday 17 August.
The Scottish Land Commission provides advice and recommendations for law and policy as well as leadership for change in culture and practice, working to create a Scotland where everybody can benefit from the ownership and use of the nation’s land and buildings.