In association with
4 May 2022
University of Edinburgh Business School, 29 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh EH8 9JS

Green Lairds and the great carbon offset: how to reconcile natural capital, net-zero and just transition priorities?

In association with

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Listen to the meeting recording here

Wednesday 4th May, 18:30 – 20:00

Our expert panel will discuss the trends for large-scale land purchases for carbon offsetting in Scotland, what is driving these trends, and what the future holds.

In this joint event with the University of Edinburgh Business School, a panel of academic and practitioner experts will address the following questions:

  • What trends are we witnessing in rural Scotland with regards to large-scale land purchases for carbon offsetting?
  • What is driving these trends and what does the future look like?
  • What positive and negative impacts are these offsets having, in terms of net-zero, natural capital and a just transition?
  • How are these carbon offsetting projects impacting local communities?
  • What needs to change to ensure that these projects create added-value for Scotland’s rural communities?

Registration and coffee from 6pm. The event will be followed by a networking drinks reception.


  • Charles Hendry, Honorary Professor and President of BIEE (Chair)
  • Dave Reay – Professor of Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh. Executive Director for Edinburgh Climate Change Institute. Director of Policy at ClimateXChange
  • Kirsten Jenkins – Lecturer in Energy, Environment and Society at the University of Edinburgh
  • Ailsa Raeburn – Chairperson for Community Land Scotland. Chair of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust.
  • Stephen Young – Head Of Policy at Scottish Land & Estates



6pm Registration/tea/coffee.
6.30pm Event starts with welcome address from Charles Hendry
6.40pm Panellists each given 5 minutes to set the scene
7pm Panel chaired by Charles Hendry
7.40pm Audience Q&A
8pm Event finishes and is followed by drinks reception

This is joint event with University of Edinburgh Business School



Voluntary carbon markets (VCMs) offer a means of offsetting carbon emissions, by funding projects that deliver equivalent carbon emissions reductions elsewhere. Aligned with growing net-zero ambitions, VCMs are experiencing a period of unprecedented growth. In 2020, the market was worth $300 million and could be worth upward of $50 billion by 2030.

Despite its various criticisms (such as permanence, additionality), interest in accredited VCMs (see Verra, Woodland Carbon Code) is gathering pace in the UK, normally with a focus on purchasing land for carbon sequestration via afforestation. The impact of offsetting has been most acute in the Scottish Highlands, with major land purchases for “rewilding”, led by companies and wealthy individuals; often known as “Green Lairds”.

For example, BrewDog purchased 9,308 acres near Aviemore for its Lost Forest and Shell is investing £5m in Glengarry forest. An unintended consequence is how these purchases are driving up land prices, making community ownership less affordable and undermining community wealth building. Offsetting also normally prioritises VCM investor’ priorities to cut carbon emissions over place-based economic, social and other environmental benefits.

Furthermore, those who benefit more are those who already own or are able to purchase land; not the wider community. As the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission explain, “without careful design and meaningful engagement there is a risk that benefits may flow mainly to large landowners and opportunities for community benefit will be missed”. This lack of direct community benefit is of particular concern to Scottish Highland communities—the typical hosts of these projects—given they have some of the highest fuel poverty rates in Scotland.

This event explores the impacts carbon offsetting is having on Scotland’s landscape and its communities. We examine ways to better align carbon offsetting with the goal of affording communities enduring benefits and a meaningful degree of control.



The session was recorded. The recording can be found by following this link

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