Expert views on climate change
As we approach our flagship Annual Conference the Business of Climate Change, sponsored by Barclays, on 29 September 2021, we caught up with our two keynote speakers, Professor Dieter Helm from Oxford University and Lord Deben Chair of the Committee on Climate Change. They have answered some questions put to them in order to give you a little taster of what they will deliver at our conference!
Professor Dieter Helm
Is there scope for land values to change depending on their carbon sequestration potential? How could this potential be accurately measured?
“Land prices have long deviated from any rational economic link to the economic yield, driven by subsidies, multiple tax concessions and lifestyles. But they are not entirely unaffected, and the new opportunities in farming carbon and biomass provide new and different revenue streams. The impacts may be greatest on marginal land in the hills. Combined with the benefits from other natural capitals, the relative price of this marginal land may go up. However, much depends on the specific location, soil type and suitability for sequestrating carbon, and some areas – notably peat – may not be suitable for new tree planting.”
In Scotland we are hearing of issues of corporate and large private buyers buying up land for natural capital. Do you think this is positive or negative for the nation as a whole?
“The current fashion of large-scale investors buying land is driven partly by the general financial background – an enormous asset bubble caused by negative real interest rates and inflation; and partly by ESG requirements. Then there is the fashion among the ultra-rich to have their own nature-based projects, reflected in some of the grander visions of “rewilding”. The latter can often be safari park-style businesses, or simply consumption goods for the new owners.”
Why did you get involved with the Climate Change Committee – what are your particular interests?
“I was asked to put my name forward as chairman of the Climate Change Committee nearly ten years ago after I left the House of Commons. I readily agreed as I had been convinced of the reality of global warming back in the 1980s when I was the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and had specific responsibility for sea defences. The increasing certainty of sea level rises and greater likelihood of flooding changed my attitudes and I have worked on the problem ever since, both as Minister of Agriculture and Secretary of State for the Environment and now as Chairman of the CCC.”
What’s your view on the statutory instruments in place with respect to climate change targets – are they good enough?
“The present legal situation is not satisfactory. The UK has a statutory requirement to reach Net Zero by 2050; it is committed to reducing emissions by 67% on 1990 levels by 2030 and even tougher targets thereafter; we have clear budgets which are enshrined in law which take us to 2038 – all this but we do not yet have a detailed programme of action which will ensure that we meet our legal obligations. We must have this before COP26 or the world will find it hard to believe that we are serious about the targets to which we are committed.”
Professor Helm and Lord Deben are part of a fantastic line up of speakers who will discuss how land managers and rural businesses can play their role in the climate emergency while running successful businesses. Don’t miss out, book your conference ticket now and learn from these fantastic speakers!