Green finance, land reform and a just transition to net zero
Tackling the twin emergencies of climate change and biodiversity loss is an existential challenge, requiring concerted and coordinated action across all sectors of the economy. Scotland’s land has a key role to play, both in protecting existing stores of carbon and sequestering more. However, land is currently a significant source of emissions: rapid and extensive changes in land use are necessary to deliver any meaningful contribution to net zero.
The Scottish Government has made legally binding commitments to achieve net zero, and to ensure a just transition, providing a fairer distribution of benefits. Likewise, the Government has commendable policy commitments to social justice, land reform and community wealth building. However, delivery of these multiple objectives is problematic given Scotland’s largely unregulated land market and uniquely concentrated pattern of rural land ownership. This disposition is buttressed by a suite of grants, subsidies and tax exemptions which drive up land prices and build and protect private wealth. With access to land denied to all but a few, the distribution of benefits, often from windfall gains, is equally restricted.