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March 30, 2021

Land ownership and climate

There seems to have been a subtle but noticeable shift in Scottish Government thinking in relation to the contribution that communities can make in tackling the climate emergency. Until recently their contribution was seen through the lens of what could be achieved with project funding from the Climate Challenge Fund which, although of significant value, was generally short lived. The shift in thinking is that if Scotland has an embedded culture of empowered, resilient communities, the actions that are necessary to tackle climate change will become normalised. Actions such as those being taken by Scotland’s community landowners.

Bobby Macaulay and Chris Dalglish, Inherit

Full report here

Foreward by Ailsa Raeburn, Chair of Community Land Scotland

Community Land Scotland is pleased to publish ‘Community Landowners and the Climate Emergency’ in partnership with Community Energy Scotland, the Community Woodlands Association and the Woodland Crofts Partnership. We appreciate their significant contribution to steering the research to a successful conclusion. That collaborative approach, so characteristic of the community land sector as a whole, has served the study well. We are also grateful to the Scottish Government for providing funding to undertake the research. Finally, our thanks go to Inherit for producing such a comprehensive, accessible and analytically rigorous study.

We all know that the climate emergency presents the overarching existential threat to the future of our planet, requiring urgent action to ensure a just transition to a net zero carbon economy. We also know that community landowners have a long track-record of initiatives to address the climate emergency. Until now, however, our knowledge of the full range of such activities, and the community and wider public benefits they generate, has been patchy and incomplete.

Both this report and its accompanying case-studies make an important contribution towards filling that knowledge gap. Together they show how rural and urban community landowners are tackling the climate emergency proactively and imaginatively; generating renewable energy, caring for carbon sinks, reducing transport, food, domestic and business related carbon emissions, and helping their communities adapt to the effects of climate change. The research shows climate action from the ground up, helping to make the practical and behavioural changes that put communities on the path to a more sustainable future.

The report also shows the distinctive contribution that community landowners make to addressing the climate emergency by virtue of their role as land and asset Trusts. We know that many community organisations do great work in developing climate initiatives without owning assets. It’s clear that ‘one size’ does not fit all when it comes to tackling the climate emergency through community action. However, it’s equally clear that, as the report states, community ownership of land and other assets can be a significant factor in empowering people to tackle the climate emergency in sustainable ways.

Crucially, community landowners tend towards a holistic approach to climate action. They make connections across the range of their activities, stimulating multiple ‘soft’ benefits including environmental education, skills development and enhanced health and wellbeing. That’s in addition to the carbon reduction benefits associated with the range of initiatives highlighted in this report. All of which – as the research findings show – help facilitate a renewed sense of confidence and cohesion in our rural and urban communities.

These are formidable achievements. But there remains much more to be done to ensure that Scotland’s community landowners are empowered to play their full part in tackling the climate emergency in a socially just way. As the report notes, continuing to facilitate more community ownership of land and other assets is fundamental to that. So too is exploring the scope for wider collaborations and partnership working, together with ensuring that appropriate funding mechanisms for community climate action remain in place. This report confirms that community land and asset ownership has a vital role to play in tackling the climate emergency and building towards a more sustainable future. Let’s make sure that it continues to do so