SNH staff attended The Scottish Biennial Land Use and the Environment conference late last year. The event – organised by SRUC and partners, including SNH, SEPA, SEFARI, CEH, JHI and Forest Research – attracted a large audience of policy makers, academics and public body representatives. Today, Kirsten Brewster of our Natural Resource Management team reports back on what she learned.
The theme of the conference was ‘Rewarding the Delivery of Public Goods: How to Achieve this in Practice?’ Public goods is an economic term used to describe resources that are available for everyone to access and which are not diminished through their consumption.
Scottish Natural Heritage CEO Francesca Osowska opened the conference. She commented, “Our natural environment makes a fundamental contribution to Scotland’s economy, health and well-being. Supporting the delivery of public goods is not only good for the environment but also for dynamic rural communities.”
David Baldock, of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), set the scene with a reference to the debate on public goods and definitions: “Food is not a public good but the capacity to produce it is.”
Jon Westlake of the Welsh Government summarised how they are hoping to shape farming support towards the support of public goods; this will sit on top of a broad and shallow support scheme. Only outcomes with evidence of a causal relationship between actions and results will be paid for and it is envisaged that for many farmers this will be a significant new income stream. For marginal hill farmers it is thought that businesses will continue to diversify and tourism income will also be an important opportunity.
Anna Brand, RSPB policy advisor, described a recent survey commissioned by Scottish Environment LINK of 1000 people: it found that 77% were in favour of farm support being conditional on providing environmental goods. For those farmers who do provide public good and environmental benefit they are not currently being rewarded financially for this even if it causes them additional effort.
SNH woodland advisor Kate Holl gave a passionate talk on Agroforestry, which will feature in an upcoming blog post.
Roseanna Cunningham, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Cabinet Secretary, opened the afternoon session, which was well attended by conference delegates. She spoke about plans to reinvigorate the Land Use Strategy.
The Cross party group in the evening was chaired by John Scott MSP and Professor Sarah Skerrat.
Panellists included (L-R) Davy McCracken of SRUC, Roger Madrigal of Environment for Development for Central America (EfD-CA) and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre (CATIE), John Scott, Sarah Skerrat, Caroline Sullivan of the Irish Hen Harrier project and Stephen Chaplin of Natural England (not pictured). Each gave us a flavour of their own experience and we reflected on how this could apply in Scotland.
Róger Madrigal, the director of Environment for Development for Central America (EfD-CA), spoke on the second day of the conference. The global value of Costa Rica’s Payment for Ecosystem Services programme is $36-42bn across 550 projects. The main ecosystem services they incentivise are carbon sequestration, water, biodiversity and scenic beauty. One million hectares of land has been restored. There is strong demand for the funding, with only 50% of applicants successful. This creates issues for the future for financing, with the need to move from state-based to investor-based, funding. The state are committed to developing a green economy.
Caroline Sullivan of the Irish Hen Harrier project talked about results-based solutions. The programme, which began in May 2017, is being led by a private company which responded to a tender put out by DAFM; they received 25m Euros and designed their own payments to farmers, and the calculations behind these. There is a 1-10 scale, and if a farmer scores 4 or lower they do not receive money. The application for funding is a simple side of A4 and importantly, there was a need to include an advisory service to support the scheme.
Stephen Chaplin of Natural England described a pilot Payment by Results project, in conjunction with the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The ability to deliver successful results is being tested in both arable and upland grassland farms. These each have target objectives to deliver: winter bird food, pollen and nectar mix and habitat for breeding waders and species-rich hay meadow. The 19 grassland farms taking part in the pilot have been quick to pick up skills in meadow plant identification as a result of training and have also benefited from working with their peers on field assessments. Payments depend on quality of outcome achieved but the average payment for meadows has been £260/ha with a maximum of £371/ha. I look forward to seeing if this approach is taken forward as part of future farm support in England.
Andrew McBride, SNH’s Peatland Action project manager, spoke about the project and the Peatland Pound. Through the PeatlandACTION project, there are 15,000 ha under restoration and no management payments. There was discussion around whether we can we measure all the benefits. Success is very much down to engaging and working with land managers.
Overall, I found the conference to be a great opportunity to hear first-hand how money has been channelled towards delivering public goods in other countries. In particular, I was inspired by the simplicity and success of the Irish Hen Harrier scheme for the land managers who take part and also the dedication of the Costa Rican government to the Ecosystem Services approach. My final thoughts of the day were inspired by the words of Davy McCracken of SRUC: “In Scotland, we need to get on and do it”.