This report examines the potential of nature-based solutions to contribute to Scotland’s net-zero emissions target.

Scotland is facing the twin challenges of a climate emergency and biodiversity crisis. Changing the way we use the land and sea is now essential to both store carbon and help society adapt to climate change. Doing so can also help to improve the state of nature, which is experiencing unprecedented threats. 

Nature-based solutions feature prominently in the global biodiversity agenda. Vegetation growth and healthy soils, as well as sea floor integrity, provide a crucial way of locking away carbon emissions. However, it is the additional multiple benefits unique to nature-based solutions – addressing biodiversity loss, and adaptation to locked-in climate change – that makes them such a crucial part of a net-zero strategy. These are widely regarded as ‘no-regret’ actions to address climate change, but the evidence base to support their direct impact is complex. As such, further work is required to understand their practical application in Scottish circumstances.

This study assesses evidence for the greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation potential of four nature-based solutions in Scotland (agroforestry, hedgerows, un-cultivated riparian buffer zones and the restoration of species-rich grasslands) and how these can help mitigate the impacts of climate change and reduce biodiversity loss. In addition, we provide a synthesis of the strength of evidence for including these as part of net-zero policy objectives and carbon codes.