[Diggers350] Scottish and Welsh Farmland Corporatised in 'Carbon Offset’ Scam

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Sun May 1 13:25:04 BST 2022

Scottish and Welsh Farmland Being Corporatised in 
Fake Environmental ‘Carbon Offset’ Scam


May 2022 <https://tlio.org.uk/author/tony/>Tony 
a comment

WALES: Greater transparency and information is 
needed about the purchase of viable farm land in 
Wales by corporations using carbon offset 
schemes, the Welsh affairs committee has warned today.

While MPs recognise the importance of woodland to 
tackle the climate emergency, concerns were 
raised that companies could be attempting to 
“game the system” by investing in farming land to 
offset emissions which is then lost to Welsh 
agriculture. Farmers could find themselves 
“priced out” of good quality farming land as many 
can simply not compete with the prices paid by wealthy companies for the land.

The committee invites the Welsh government to 
consider whether it has appropriate safeguards in 
place to ensure companies investing in carbon 
woodland offsets have credible emission 
reductions schemes, calls on the Welsh and UK 
governments to improve the transparency and 
regulation of carbon offset schemes which in 
effect create a change of land use, and suggests 
that greater transparency may be achieved by the 
creation of a register of carbon offset schemes 
so that the extent of this problem can be monitored.

The potential lack of farm land is just one of 
the issues facing family farms in Wales. Welsh 
farmers feel the “economics are stacked against 
the family farm” referring to the single farm 
payment, working hours and rent. The committee 
was concerned to hear that around a fifth of 
Welsh farms had a farm business income of less 
than zero with an average income of £26,000 per farm.

The language and cultural traditions maintained 
by family farms are also at risk. The 
agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors in 
Wales represents 43 per cent of Welsh speaking 
workers, and with farming in Wales dominated by 
over 60s, when they retire there are concerns 
that the language could be further eroded. Many 
younger generations are leaving due to the lack 
of work, and the committee therefore recommends 
that new entrants are supported into farming, 
while the UK and Welsh governments should work 
together to create a scheme to support farmers plan for their retirement.

The committee collected evidence on free trade 
agreements (FTAs) and heard concerns that Welsh 
producers could be undermined if the UK market is 
flooded with cheaper imports. The committee 
stressed that it is important that safeguards 
continue to be included in FTAs with countries 
with a large agri-food export sector. The 
committee recommends that the UK government 
publish cumulative impact modelling to show the 
impact of FTAs and again recommends that a Welsh 
specific impact assessment is carried out to 
mitigate any adverse impacts an FTA could have on the Welsh farming sector.

Committee chair Stephen Crabb MP, said following 
today’s report: “Farming is an incredibly 
important and vital sector for communities across 
Wales. An enormous 90 per cent of Welsh land is 
used for farming, and comparably with England, 
the farming sector employs more people and 
contributes more to the Welsh economy.

“Yet, Welsh farming is facing a challenging time 
in a number of different areas. We heard that a 
significant amount of farming land is being lost 
to carbon offset projects which is being sold at 
such a high price to wealthy companies that 
farmers, many of whom are already struggling 
financially, cannot compete with. While offsets 
could be a useful tool in meeting net zero, there 
must be adequate safeguards in place to avoid 
greenwashing by companies relying on offsets to 
avoid difficult decisions to tackle emissions at source.

“Further, with older generations dominating the 
farming community, we must make sure they have a 
suitable route into retirement so farming, and 
the rich legacy of traditions that come with it, 
continue in younger generations.”

SCOTLAND: Absentee owners buying up Scottish 
estates in secret sales – Nearly half of sales of 
Highland estates went to absentee owners last 
year – in some cases for environmental offsetting


Severin Carrell Scotland editor @SeverinCarrell Tue 12 Apr 2022

A majority of Highland estates that changed hands 
last year were sold in secret, and nearly half 
went to absentee owners rushing to buy rural land 
for environmental reasons, a report has revealed.

The Scottish Land Commission, an official body 
set up to reform land ownership, has warned these 
trends are threatening attempts to diversify land 
ownership, improve the rural economy and increase 
transparency and accountability.

An investigation it commissioned implies the 
Scottish land market is at risk of overheating, 
with the demand from corporations, charities and 
the privately wealthy for prime Highland estates greatly outstripping supply.

A study by Scotland’s Rural College and two major 
estate agencies – Savills and Strutt & Parker – 
has for the first time analysed land sales in 
Scotland over the past two years involving 
Highland sporting estates, commercial forests and farms.

It found that prices for sporting estates jumped 
by 88% in 2021 compared with 2020, even though 
the number of properties sold was similar to the 
five-year average. Two sold for more than £20m. 
And despite the global pandemic, the amount spent 
last year rose by 119% compared with 2020.

Nearly two-thirds of last year’s sales were 
carried out privately, without the land going on 
the open market, with a third of the total going 
to overseas buyers. Those “off market” sales 
meant land was changing hands secretly without 
allowing local people to put in bids, the commission warned.

Hamish Trench, the commission’s chief executive, 
said these trends could make it “significantly 
harder” for local communities, cooperatives and 
social enterprises to buy land, stifling efforts 
to promote rural economic diversity.

That greatly increased the case for new public 
interest tests to be introduced on large land 
sales, and for rules to prevent private land 
sales excluding local communities, he added.

tree-planting drive in Scotland ‘risks widening rural inequality’

“The way the land market functions is important 
to Scotland’s ambitions such as net zero, nature 
restoration, repopulation and community 
empowerment,” Trench said. “Being able to 
participate in the market shapes not just who 
owns Scotland’s land, but who is able to make 
decisions and who benefits from land and its 
economic, social and environmental value.”

Businesses and investors are now paying premium 
prices for rural estates, commercial forests and 
farms to offset carbon emissions and sell green 
investments as they attempt to meet the 
challenges set by governments and scientists to address climate heating.

At the same time, the very wealthy are still 
buying Highland estates for lifestyle reasons but 
are now investing much more in woodland, 
rewilding and peatland restoration rather than 
focusing on deer stalking, salmon and grouse as before.

A recent study by Community Land Scotland, which 
campaigns for land reform, found that many 
forestry projects are subsidised by government 
grants to promote reforestation and regeneration, 
while also allowing owners to sell carbon credits 
based on the CO2 the forests absorb.

That has meant farm prices in Scotland jumped by 
31% last year, compared with 6% at UK level, the 
land commission report said. The value of 
poor-quality grazing land and hill farms ideal 
for forestry rose by 60% last year.

The commission’s findings will intensify pressure 
on the Scottish government to introduce a public 
interest test and potentially limit the amount of 
land one individual or entity can own.

As part of the Scottish National party’s 
cooperation deal with the Scottish Greens it 
plans to introduce a new land reform bill in late 
2023, but it remains unclear what ministers intend to do.

Lost Forest: why is BrewDog’s green scheme causing controversy?

The government has also promised to double the 
£10m-a-year Scottish Land Fund, which distributes 
grants for community buyouts, to £20m by 2026. 
That fund was already heavily oversubscribed 
before last year’s sudden surge in land prices, 
and had to turn applicants away.

In 2019, the commission found that about 1,125 
owners, including public bodies and charities, 
owned 70% of Scotland’s rural land, totalling 
4.1m hectares (10m acres). That includes 87 
owners who hold 1.7m hectares, including some 
that own vast landholdings of over 80,000 
hectares spreading over multiple properties.

The Scottish government said it recognised the 
case for land reform. The commission’s report 
supported “the approach we are taking to ensure 
that the investment in our natural capital is 
conducted in a responsible manner, in keeping 
with our land reform objectives and the need to 
ensure a just transition to net zero.”

Calum MacLeod, the policy director of Community 
Land Scotland, said the government’s timetable 
lacked urgency. It could take several years for legislation to come into force.

“Scotland urgently needs land reform legislation 
regulating ‘off-market’ estate sales, applying 
public interest tests on significant land 
transfers and current landholdings, and making it 
easier to use existing community rights to buy 
land to be enacted well before the end of 2023,” he said.

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