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Ariane Burgess: Government could explore a council-imposed local carbon land tax levy

By Scott Maclennan

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Highlands and Islands Green MSP Ariane Burgess.
Highlands and Islands Green MSP Ariane Burgess.

You may have observed that I often write about the climate and nature emergency in my columns. I do that because it is a vital issue for all of us.

Sometimes, I struggle with how much to talk about it as I know it can, at times, feel overwhelming to know what we can do.

When I returned to live in Scotland, what encouraged me to get into politics was the fact that Scotland understood that there was an emergency and there were agreements in place to take action to tackle it.

I’d been campaigning for years for action to stop climate change and the decline of nature.

It was good to come to a place where there was action on climate. Increasingly, we understand that much of what we can do to tackle the climate emergency will be through nature restoration.

That is why, at the Scottish Green Party conference, I was delighted that Lorna Slater, the Green minister for biodiversity, announced plans for the Scottish Government to explore options for councils to introduce a local carbon land tax levy to encourage more action on climate and nature.

The move could incentivise landowners to restore their degraded peatlands and create more woodland, both key tools in tackling the climate and nature crisis.

Nature-based solutions to the climate crisis like these are essential if we are to meet our climate and nature commitments.

In 2019, the Scottish Parliament passed the landmark Climate Change Act, influenced heavily by the Scottish Greens at the time.

With the party now in government with two ministers, we have helped deliver record levels of funding for climate and nature restoration and tackling the threat to Scotland’s biodiversity.

I am delighted that thanks not only to having Scottish Greens in government but also to early work by Scotland’s Climate Assembly, this recommendation can be taken forward.

It will build on the existing generous public support for landowners to restore peatland and reforest Scotland, giving them a further incentive to take action.

This is a novel proposal, and much work now needs to be done in partnership with councils to develop a simple and effective approach to delivering this important recommendation by Scotland’s Climate Assembly.

This was one of five announcements for action. The others were a cruise ship levy, a target of up to 6GW solar energy, free bus travel for asylum seekers and expanded concessionary ferry travel for every island resident under 22.

Each of these measures works together to help us tackle the climate emergency and restore nature.

It was great to celebrate these green wins with other party members. It’s good to be surrounded by people who get that we are in a climate and nature emergency and together we’re doing something about it.

We were also reminded of the importance of our work on vastly improving public transport as the weather was extremely wet, leading to the cancellation of trains, which made it challenging for people to get back home.

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