Tentsmuir and the road to net-zero

You have all heard the term ‘net-zero’ but what does this actually mean and how can we achieve this? Tentsmuir NNR Student Placement, Andrew Black, tells us about what’s happening at the reserve as they play their role in achieving this goal…

Polaris ranger electric vehicle ©Marijke Leith

As recently highlighted in the IPCC report the climate emergency is progressing at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, the negative effects of climate change are extensive including decreasing water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, increased flooding & wildfires, reduced biodiversity and negative health impacts on the human population.

It is not all doom and gloom however as by striving to be NetZero these detrimental impacts can be reduced.

What is Net Zero?

NetZero is effectively ensuring the emissions produced are the same as those sequestered, or taken out, of the atmosphere. The main greenhouse gases (GHGs) contributing to climate change include: Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (NO2) with both CO2 and NO2 sources including fossil fuel combustion.

To meet the NetZero targets laid out by NatureScot and the Scottish Government there has to be a reduction in emissions. These reductions must come from permanent and sustainable changes in people’s daily lives and how we work.

NatureScot has targets for being a NetZero organisation by 2035, or by 2040, at the latest. This is an ambitious target, being 10 years earlier than the UK target however this goal can be achieved.

What is happening at Tentsmuir NNR?

Tenstmuir NNR is actively engaging with NatureScot’s road to NetZero by utilising Electric Vehicles (EVs) on the reserve, encouraging active travel within the reserve and by re-using materials on the reserve to help promote an improved procurement system that has a greater focus on the circular economy.

Staff use bikes to get about the reserve ©Marijke Leith

EVs are beneficial for the environment and can be effectively utilised to tackle the climate emergency and meet NetZero targets. Traditional combustion engines produce previously mentioned GHGs that are not only harmful to the environment but to people’s health. With EVs these pollutants are reduced, and it has been shown that the shift towards the electrification of the vehicle fleet improves air quality on the local scale.

There has been a societal shift towards the uptake of EVs, supported by the Scottish Governments targets of phasing out sales of traditional petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.

Recently at Tentsmuir NNR, an Electric Polaris was purchased, which this helps to transport staff and tools are around the reserve in a low-emission manner. Recent studies have found that one of the most effective ways to reduce emissions from vehicles is to electrify the Heavy Goods (HGV) and Light Goods Vehicle (LGV) fleet, as these are traditionally the biggest polluters. So by using the Polaris we are effectively tackling and reducing one of the biggest areas of vehicle pollutants.

Even better than the Polaris is active travel, i.e. walking or cycling.  In the previous months everyone at Tentsmuir NNR has been travelling around the reserve on the reserve bikes.

This has had a multitude of benefits:

  • Reduced emissions: one of the best way to reduce emissions is by walking or cycling instead of driving short journeys. The great part about bikes are there are no emissions produced when they are used.
  • Public engagement: by utilising our bikes to move around the reserve there has been improved public engagement, members of the public are much more likely to approach and engage staff. This helps us spread the NatureScot brand and educate the public.
  • Improved Health: there is health benefits associated with the reduced emissions as air pollution is one of the most significant risks to human health but also through the daily exercise of using the bikes.
Battery operated brushcutter/chainsaw ©Marijke Leith

Another way we are reducing emissions at Tentsmuir NNR is by replacing our old petrol machinery with cordless, battery operated machinery such as chainsaws and brushcutters. This not only helps us work towards NetZero but has other benefits such as reduced noise pollution and removes the need to transport fuel on site.

We should all Reduce, Reuse and Recycle where possible and recently, at Tentsmuir there has been a greater focus on reducing waste and reusing available materials to meet NatureScot’s road to NetZero targets for the circular economy. Work has started on a giant insect hotel, this project is entirely comprised of recycled timber from an old boardwalk, meaning cost and waste is reduced while still promoting biodiversity within the reserve.


The climate emergency is more important than ever before. NatureScot has laid out the path to NetZero by 2040, and we at Tentsmuir NNR feel like we are doing our part to help meet this target and promote NatureScot’s vision for a nature-rich future. To reach net zero targets and help mitigate the negative impacts of climate change there needs to be a wider societal shift towards increased EVs and active travel. However, to be effective these changes must be permanent and sustainable, and who better to set an example to society than Scotland’s Nature Agency.

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