Land Use: Carbon Offsetting

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Carbon Offsetting

Land Use

Carbon Offsetting

The release of carbon into the atmosphere as a result of various industrial processes or other activities can in theory be offset by bringing about an equivalent amount of sequestration of carbon, normally by planting trees.

Carbon sequestration is the process of taking carbon from the atmosphere and incorporating it into the tree’s biomass or into the soil. Landowners can benefit financially by accepting payment from carbon producers for planting trees on their land; this is already happening elsewhere in the Highlands and it is believed that some landowners in the Affric area may be considering such schemes.

It is essential that the local community have a say in this proposed change of land use, from which only the landowners would profit. Any new tree planting must be shown to take place in a suitable area and with no adverse effect on the present environment.

It is also possible that carbon offsetting by tree planting may not achieve the desired result of balancing carbon release with carbon sequestration. Studies have shown that in the long term undisturbed heather moorland stores more carbon than trees, and that the carbon produced in the processes of tree planting and eventual tree-felling, timber extraction and wood processing can cancel out the carbon stored during the lifetime of the tree.[1]

There are further objections to carbon offsetting. As it is seen by some as a profitable scheme, the land valuation of moorland sites to be used for tree planting has been grossly inflated, pricing out potential local buyers by providing an opportunity for investment companies and driving a change of land use without regard to the destructive effects of loss of habitat or loss of jobs for those currently working on the land.[2]

 

[1] https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/scotland-environment-green-lairds/

[2] Friggens, N.L., Hester, A.J., Mitchell, R.J., Parker, T.C., Subke, J.A. & Wookey, P.A. (2020). Tree planting in organic soils does not result in net carbon sequestration on decadal timescales. Global Change Biology, 1–11.