Investing in Nature

by Robbie Kernahan


In response to the twin crises of the climate emergency and nature loss, NatureScot is working with a range of agencies and investors to find new ways to invest in nature restoration. Restoring natural ecosystems is key to achieving our climate change targets – nature is the ‘net’ in net zero.

As part of these efforts, NatureScot is partnering in a private finance pilot that could mobilise £2 billion in landscape scale restoration of native woodland whilst creating new jobs and supporting rural communities across all parts of Scotland.

A Memorandum of Understanding is now in place between NatureScot and UK private bank Hampden & Co, Lombard Odier Investment Managers and global impact firm Palladium. It is a ‘national first’ in ambition and scale, and an important first step in positioning Scotland as a world leader in nature restoration through natural capital investment.

Limited available public funds mean Scotland must attract significantly more private investment into restoring and growing its nature as a vital means of tackling the twin climate-nature crises. The Green Finance Institute estimates that delivering our nature / climate targets in Scotland will cost around £20billion.

The first pilot scheme will begin spring 2023. It is centred on the Wild Heart Borders Forest Trust project in Southern Scotland. This, and every project, will deliver against the Scottish Government’s Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital, and will be designed to deliver tangible benefits for local communities. It will work with land managers who are willing to create more woodland on their landholdings, alongside farming and other activities.

The initial scoping assessment, part funded by South of Scotland Enterprise, has identified the potential for around 30,000 hectares of new native woodland in the heart of Southern Scotland with the potential for between £200 and £300 million of private investment and around 6 million tonnes of carbon sequestration. The next phase of work will involve developing the funding model further and engaging with land managers and communities to explore what might be possible and the many benefits that might accrue.

The team will work closely with land managers and local partners to deliver high integrity, responsible investment in new and productive woodlands which lock up carbon. The additional investment will enable high quality design, delivering multiple benefits for communities and nature in a way that more traditional woodland projects cannot always afford. It will strike a balance between maintaining existing land use and nature restoration.

We will be working with South of Scotland Enterprise to make sure the project is designed so as to deliver the most benefits for the local economy, including supporting a new supply chain and attracting new visitors to the area. This will help support the aims on the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, published in march 2022, to invest in natural capital and move towards a nature positive economy.

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