Humanist Society Scotland is one of more than 30 organisations campaigning for a Carbon Emissions Land Tax. If you want to know why this is such a vital cause for the future of Scotland’s environment, read on. We spoke to Thomas Widrow, Campaigns Manager at the organisation spearheading the idea, the John Muir Trust.
Can you explain the idea of a carbon emissions land tax to readers who might not be familiar with it?
Most of our peatlands in Scotland are degraded and our woodlands unable to regenerate. For the benefit of sporting estates, our land has become depleted, scarred, and trampled on, emitting greenhouse gases when it should be a huge carbon sink, home to thriving and diverse habitats.
A Carbon Emissions Land Tax would change that by holding large estate owners responsible for the way they manage their land. Those who put their private interests above the public good will pay a tax for the damage they cause.
Why is this idea so well suited to Scotland?
We propose the tax is applied to landholdings over 1,000 hectares. That’s because in Scotland, 750 people control around 60% of the land. By targeting these large estates, we ensure both maximum impact on the ground and that the richest polluters contribute their fair share. It makes the tax both effective and progressive!
Thomas Widrow, Campaigns Manager, John Muir Trust
Scotland’s land has the potential to soak up the equivalent emissions of every single car in the country, plus some more. We cannot pass on this vital opportunity to reach net zero….By incentivising estates to switch to more diverse land use models the tax will also create new green jobs for rural communities.
Equally important, Scotland’s land has the potential to soak up the equivalent emissions of every single car in the country, plus some more. We cannot pass on this vital opportunity to reach net zero and fulfil nature restoration targets just because some large estate owners care more about their narrow private interest.
Do you think there is support for this idea? What additional benefits will it bring?
In early August we commissioned a poll from YouGov, asking Scottish people what they thought about a Carbon Emissions Land Tax. It revealed that 64% of Scots supported the introduction of a tax on large landowners based on the emissions created by their land-management processes.
By incentivising estates to switch to more diverse land use models the tax will also create new green jobs for rural communities. For example, compared to sporting estates, the John Muir Trust employs five times more people and invests 10 times more money per hectare. That’s what a Just Transition in wild places looks like.
Tell us about the John Muir Trust
The John Muir Trust was formed in 1983 to conserve and protect wild places so that nature, people and communities have the freedom to thrive. At the time, the Ministry of Defence was considering purchasing the Knoydart peninsula, which would have seen this remarkable landscape closed to the public, but the local community and the John Muir Trust campaigned to secure the future of the area. Forty years later, we care for 65,000 acres of wild places.
What practical steps can humanists in Scotland take to fight climate change?
Moral and ethical solutions to the climate and environmental crises must follow the principles of a Just Transition. That means supporting communities in the transition to more harmonious economic systems. Look out for and support campaigns that promote these solutions, like the Carbon Emissions Land Tax.
You can also help us by signing our petition by the end of September, calling on the Scottish Government to introduce the new tax. And if you are part of a community group, get them to back our call and join the 30+ coalitions and organisations who already support it.
[For more information email Thomas.Widrow@johnmuirtrust.org]
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