COP26: Groundbreaking Scottish project will see forests planted to mark current and future climate talks

The first ever legacy woodland to celebrate a United Nations climate summit is to be created in the Scottish Highlands, marking the country’s role in hosting the historic COP26 event.

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.

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Going wild: How Scots are working to save nature through rewilding

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.

Scotland's new 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

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.

Plans for the first Forest of Hope, created to mark COP26 being held in Scotland, will include woodland restoration and planting of at least 250,000 native trees

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.”

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