COP26: Groundbreaking Scottish project will see forests planted to mark current and future climate talks
The Forest of Hope will be sited on the 860-acre Beldorney estate, spanning the border between Aberdeenshire and Moray, with a unique mass ownership involving local communities.
It is hoped the initiative will become a “greenprint” for future world climate conferences.
The plan will see 250,000 mixed-species native broadleaf trees planted on Beldorney land alone, with potential for future expansion.
Work will include new planting plus regeneration of existing woodlands on over-grazed grasslands.
The estate already hosts a 1km stretch of pristine native woodland along the River Deveron, which offers a glimpse of what the Forest of Hope will look like.
Equity investments have been flowing into Highlands Rewilding from founding funders and are already sufficient to breathe life into the project once planting permissions can be obtained from Scottish Forestry.
The Forest of Hope concept is the brainchild of Climate Action, the company behind the Climate Action Innovation Zone and the Sustainable Innovation Forum at COP26.
The Scottish project is the first of its kind, but the ambition is to create a Forest of Hope for each future COP meeting.
It came about after Beldorney estate was bought by social entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett in May this year, with the aim of beginning work on his Bunloit Rewilding Project there using a mass-ownership company, Highlands Rewilding.
Nick Henry, chief executive of Climate Action and organiser of the COP26 Climate Action Innovation Zone, heard of the acquisition and suggested the COP26 Forest of Hope idea to the estate’s new owner.
The Scottish project is being carried out in a collaboration between the public and private sectors, led by environmental groups Highlands Rewilding, Climate Action and Cabrach Trust, with support from conservation charities Trees for Life and the Woodland Trust.
Climate Action founder and chief executive Nick Henry said: “I believe that nature is the most important partner to work with in tackling the climate emergency.
“That’s why it is our mission to support nature-based solutions such as rewilding, both in the UK and internationally.
“From the greening of gardens, parks and cities right through to the large-scale rewilding of landscapes, a growing number of people, businesses and institutions are now realising that ecosystem restoration and regeneration is vital to the long-term health of our planet.
“I am delighted to see our idea to create the COP26 Forest of Hope becoming a reality.”
Dr Jeremy Leggett, founder and acting chief executive of Bunloit Rewilding and Highlands Rewilding, said: “Our definition of rewilding is people-centric in large part because we cannot hope to stop climate meltdown and biodiversity collapse without the full fighting involvement of communities.
“Hence the mass-ownership model we are intent on for Highlands Rewilding, and therefore the Beldorney part of the first Forest of Hope.
“You can well imagine how thrilled we are that neighbours and expert organisations have so quickly lined up to collaborate, and we hope there will be much more to come.”
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We’re more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven’t already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.