A PILOT carbon share scheme designed to avoid “greenwashing” is ploughing thousands of pounds into Highland community projects.

The cash has been raised from the UK’s first community carbon share which is part of Britain’s biggest rewilding project.

Over £23,000 has so far been granted to the community groups who said it was a “fantastic” example of how responsible carbon off-setting could bring much-needed investment into rural areas while also restoring nature and reducing carbon emissions.

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The funds have been raised by charity Trees for Life selling “carbon units” from its restoration of carbon-absorbing natural habitats at its acclaimed rewilding estate in Glenmoriston near Loch Ness.

The charity has been selling the units for £28 each, with £10 from each sale since last summer going into the community grants. The price has now increased to £40 a unit, with the community share just over £13.

Trees for Life estimates that further sales of carbon units from the Allt Ruadh woodland will generate up to another £52,000 for community groups.

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“This is a fantastic example of how responsible carbon offsetting can bring much-needed investment into rural areas, while helping reduce carbon emissions and restoring nature.

"It shows how landowners can help create, and benefit from, enriched landscapes, while supporting communities,” said Tim Perkins from the West Glenmoriston Community Company, one of the two groups to benefit.

Glenmoriston Improvement Group has also benefited from the first carbon unit sale and said the money would be used for environmental improvements and traffic calming measures.

“We may also commission a feasibility study into the use of community air source heat pumps or other sources of renewable power, and the community is really looking forward to seeing this happen,” said a spokeswoman.

Trees for Life is hopeful other landowners will take an interest in using the new approach, with units sold only to organisations already taking action to reduce their carbon footprints to as close to zero as possible, but which want to offset unavoidable emissions as they work towards this goal.

The initiative is part of Affric Highlands, a community-focused rewilding project to create a vast nature recovery area of over half a million acres stretching from Loch Ness to Scotland’s west coast – boosting biodiversity, addressing climate breakdown and benefiting the local economy.

Each carbon unit represents a tonne of atmospheric carbon soaked up through a restored native woodland called Allt Ruadh, where Trees for Life has planted over 250,000 trees including Scots pine, downy birch, eared willow, hazel, aspen, bird cherry and oak.

“Creating rewilding benefits for local communities is essential if we are to seriously tackle the climate and nature emergencies,” said the charity’s chief executive Steve Micklewright.

“This pioneering community carbon initiative is one way this can happen, alongside creating new opportunities in traditional skills, slow tourism, and local food production.

“We want to show that nature-based solutions to extract carbon from the atmosphere can also boost nature recovery and help local communities thrive – and how ethical carbon offsetting can be combined with serious action to decarbonise and leave fossil fuels in the ground.”

He said that by only selling carbon units to organisations working to reduce their fossil fuel emissions as much as possible, the pilot community carbon share is designed to avoid greenwashing by companies claiming to offset their carbon footprints while failing to decarbonise.

The carbon units have been accredited by the UK Woodland Carbon Code developed by Scottish Forestry, which independently calculates and verifies how much carbon woodland habitats can soak up over a given time period.