Esmée Fairbairn Funding Confirmed

Well, we’re on our way. The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation has confirmed a grant award of £200,000 to support the two-year development phase of Affric Highlands. This is fantastic news so thank you to everyone who signed up as initial partners for the project. This really helped to get us over the line in what was a very competitive application process.

The strength of this competition was such that Esmée Fairbairn couldn’t quite award us all that they would have liked. So we’re now seeking the final piece of the funding jigsaw to allow us to start the development phase of the project. We hope to have that last £50,000 in place by the end of the summer. This will give Affric Highlands the people, capacity and expertise that it needs to grow and stand on its own two feet as a fully independent organisation.

The plan is to recruit a team of three to develop Affric Highlands. Building out from the current partnership to bring more community organisations, local businesses and landowners on board is critical. Other key aspects of the early work include developing nature-based business opportunities, coordinating the first steps towards ecological restoration, and developing the governance structure that will take over from Trees for Life when the delivery phase gets underway.

As ever, the more people who sign up and get involved, the stronger the partnership gets, so anything you can do to spread the word will definitely help.

Early action in communities

The two-year development phase of Affric Highlands will focus on planning and governance preparations. But we hope that it will also see some early action to make a positive impact on communities. Centred around connecting people with the land, some early conversations have been held to explore ideas on community food growing, and training and apprenticeships. We would like to develop the capacity of young people to get involved in the conversations about the future of their communities. These conversations will build momentum once we have a full team in place. Ideas and interest are welcome any time, however, so please reach out if you want to suggest anything.

Natural Capital Accounting

The Natural Capital Laboratory at Birchfield is piloting a digital approach to gathering information on environmental change. A Digital Natural Capital Accounting platform stores and displays the data along with the estimated monetary value of these environmental qualities to society. Birchfield is owned by Roger and Emilia Leese, and managed alongside the Lifescape Project, who are working on the Natural Capital Laboratory with AECOM, the landowners, and the University of Cumbriaa. AECOM have had initial conversations with Trees for Life about extending their Digital Natural Capital Accounting approach across more of Affric Highlands, which would allow more people to benefit from it. They have already started work on adding Dundreggan to the platform.

Not everyone is comfortable with nature being quantified and monetised in this way. There are certainly potential dangers if people seek to trade environmental damage in one area by ‘paying for’ natural capital in another. However, there is also scope to bring significant and much-needed funding into environmental restoration by showing the value of nature-based action for climate change and biodiversity loss. Used responsibly by those who own the land and the data, natural capital information could be a powerful way of restoring nature and generating investment in sustainable economic activity and employment.

Carbon Continues

The market in accredited carbon offsetting continues to climb to the point where it is starting to affect land values. The Trees for Life carbon offset product, which is based on woodland planted at Dundreggan, is achieving prices that appear to be well above the market average. The indications are that this is largely due to the interest many corporate organisations are showing in carbon that is also delivering nature restoration. The phrase ‘nature-based solution’ is gaining more purchase from the potential to address climate change and biodiversity loss together.

In developing Affric Highlands, we can see huge potential for both peatland and woodland carbon associated with the initiative. There may even be scope to attain still higher prices by building Affric Highland’s focus on community into the equation.

After the last update, there was some interest in an online workshop to discuss this potential at more length. This is now set for an online workshop on 13 August, 10 – 11 am. The plan is to share two perspectives on carbon offsetting through woodland, based on our own experience at Dundreggan and from Tree Story, a B-Corp forestry consultancy we have been fortunate to form a partnership with over the past four years. We will be looking ahead to what we can see developing in the market and how Affric Highlands can introduce itself to this market to the best advantage. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion. More details on the event will be shared on our website closer to the time.

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