UK Leasing

Net zero investors look to cash in on campaign

Sheep graze between rocky outcrops on the Scottish hillside as a hawk looms above a metallic gray sky.

It’s a centuries-old scene – but over the next decade this piece of land on the 5,300-acre Fordie Estate in Perth will start to look very different.

£ 7.8bn infrastructure investor Foresight Group bought the estate from winemaker Xavier-Louis Vuitton in August and plans to make it one of its best performing assets.

Rather than cramming it with houses, however, the company plans to grow new trees on tracts of land, adding to the estate’s existing banks of Douglas fir, sycamore, larch and others.

Foresight sees a great opportunity not only in the booming timber market, but also in the growing demand for carbon sequestration among polluting companies looking to offset their emissions.

“We were able to buy the land at the right price and it is a very beautiful place,” says Robert Guest, investment manager at Foresight. “It’s a beautiful landscape and it has been well taken care of, but it has not been optimized.”

Land use around the UK is on the line for a big change. The UK’s exit from the EU means the end of subsidy payments from the Basic Payment Scheme to supplement farmers’ incomes.

Farmers and landowners are expected to be rewarded for benefits such as climate change mitigation and boosting wildlife under new plans developed by the government.

Meanwhile, the Climate Change Committee, which advises the government, says about 90 to 120 m of deciduous and coniferous trees – about 74,000 acres – need to be planted each year.

This represents around 2.2 million acres covered by 2050, or 3.7% of UK land use.

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