Earth scientist, campaigner against fossil fuels, solar-panel entrepreneur – Scotland-based rewilder Jeremy Leggett has lived many lives. Perhaps none so controversial as his plan to buy and rewild swathes of Scottish landscape to trade as carbon and biodiversity credits. Karen Thomas went to Loch Ness to meet him.
“This is the litmus test – whether or not capitalism has a survival reflex,” Jeremy Leggett says. We are standing in his kitchen on Bunloit estate, in what used to be a schoolhouse. The huge picture window overlooks Loch Ness. Lazy clouds drift up from the south, towards Inverness and the Moray Firth.
‘This’ refers to Leggett’s nature-based solutions start-up, Highlands Rewilding and the three Scottish estates it’s snapped up; Bunloit, Beldorney in Aberdeenshire and – days after our interview – Tayvallich in Argyll, whose crowdfunder Leggett has agreed to discuss.
Highlands Rewilding will do what it says on the tin. Leggett and his 22-strong team plan to buy country estates – up to 20, says the Scottish rumour mill – to rewild. They will restore the sites to sell carbon and biodiversity credits to big-money investors.
Leggett’s mission is to close what the Green Finance Institute calls a £97 billion funding shortfall for the UK to meet its nature targets by 2032. Restoring Scottish landscapes will unlock finance in nature-based solutions, he says, and inspire other UK landowners to get on board.