Convened by NatureScot, and the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, the Natural Capital Roundtables bring together senior representatives from across the public sector in Scotland, with the aim to explore natural capital approaches, share best practice, and develop joint actions.

This year's Roundtable theme was "Investing in nature-based solutions for a green recovery", and was chaired by Francesca Osowska, NatureScot CEO. In her opening remarks, the Chair underlined that greater investment in Scotland's natural capital delivers a range of benefits, whether economic, social, environmental, cultural or spiritual. This can be a spur to job growth, boost human health & well being, and ​as part of a green recovery, play a vital role to play in meeting the twin environmental emergencies. Investing in nature, whether forestry or peatland restoration, is also a key component in the Scottish Government's Programme for Government.

Scottish Water – Net Zero Emissions Route Map 

The main presentation on the day came from Mark Williams, Head of Environmental Science and Regulation with Scottish Water. In an engaging presentation, Mark described the Net Zero Emissions Route Map which Scottish Water has recently finalised. 

The Route Map outlines an ambition over a 25 year timeframe to increasingly integrate nature-based solutions into their plans, and embed natural capital approaches into decision making processes. Mark described the journey that has been underway so far on the 22500ha of land they own, with the traditional focus for Scottish Water on water quality, increasingly augmented by a focus on carbon sequestration, â€‹woodland creation & peatland restoration. Over the 25 year journey, the boldest ambition will be to go beyond net zero emissions by 2040. 

Among many questions for Mark, a number centred on opportunities for shared learnings from the Route Map in the context of a green recovery, whether translating work with SEPA into local development plans, or sharing ideas with the private sector.

Flash presentations

Jo Green, Chief Officer, Green Recovery & Climate Lead with SEPA, gave the first short presentation, outlining the conditions for change required to secure greater green investment. Jo focused on 3 key areas to drive positive environmental outcomes.

• People – Both in terms of building public momentum and forming useful coalitions. 
• Opportunities – Be clear in what these are. Build on practical examples and policy cohesion.
• Language – As we take opportunities to learn from innovative people with non-environmental backgrounds, such as those in the financial sector, inclusive language is key.

In the second presentation, Dave Signorini, Chief Executive with Scottish Forestry, summarised the Woodland Carbon Capture Programme. Forestry already makes a significant contribution to Scotland's natural capital. With tackling climate change central within the Scottish Government's Programme for Government, there are a number of linked objectives to increase woodland creation targets, invest in forestry sector capacity, and expand the woodland carbon market.

To facilitate further growth in the carbon market, an aim is to bring forward private sector actions, and work in partnerships on Scotland’s forests and land. Further development and promotion of the Woodland Carbon Code is also key, and in that context it is important to develop creditable industry standards and guidance.

Finally, Martin Valenti, Head of Climate Enterprise at Scottish Enterprise, shared a draft COP26 Business Mobilisation Strategy. It aims to set out a high level approach for business leading up to and during COP26. There will be a focus on supporting businesses with defined plans, and a commitment to a NetZero transition. A just transition from oil and gas is an important component of this, with the aim ultimately, to attract sizeable green investment that incorporates nature-based solutions. 

Martin also suggested creating a portfolio that detailed how nature-based solutions can be ‘commoditised’, eg, standard costs and benefits from nature-based interventions clearly identified, to increase private sector investment, and support the transition.

Closing thoughts…

The active discussions which followed each presentation clearly underlined the appetite of members to share best practice and learn from collective experience in natural capital approaches. Many positive signs of progress could be identified within the public sector, whether around public lands, or in skills development. Indeed, the types of conversations taking place between public sector bodies, on issues such as sustainability and natural capital, are unrecognisable from the quite recent past.

However, a fundamental question remains for the Scottish Forum, NatureScot (and others): what can be done to better incorporate natural capital approaches into decision-making processes? For natural capital approaches to work in practice, there is the ultimate requirement for stronger political buy-in. Increasingly, there are high-level commitments to natural capital in Government policies and strategic thinking, with various work underway to develop tools and methods, but a key challenge still remains to raise natural capital approaches within the political agenda.

NatureScot and the Scottish Forum will continue to give thought to the above question, and also examine how the Natural Capital Roundtables can move beyond sharing natural capital experiences and knowledge dissemination, to become more action-focused in terms of Roundtable outcomes.  


Read the full Roundtable summary notes here

Read the Scottish Water Net Zero Emissions Route Map presentation here 

Read Dave Signorini's slides from Scottish Forestry on the Woodland Carbon Capture Programme here