Welsh MP Ben Lake has called on the UK government to regulate to ensure that rural communities are not adversely impacted by large international companies buying up land to plant trees and offset their carbon emissions.
It comes amid reports that farmers have been outbid for hundreds of acres of land in mid and west Wales.
“Tackling climate change should not be an opportunity for large companies to greenwash their emissions while continuing to emit millions of tonnes of CO2,” said the Plaid Cymru member.
Meanwhile, a local farmer who contacted the Irish Farmers Journal has also raised concerns that a similar thing could happen in NI, with various environmental organisations taking an interest in purchasing large farms, mainly with high conservation value, that come to market.
“No ordinary farmer can compete against them. The biodiversity in these areas has been created by farmers over generations, yet these groups put in place managers who know nothing about agriculture, to dictate how it should be farmed,” he alleged.
He also questioned why public money is being handed over to help purchase land.
Under the DAERA environmental challenge fund, grants of up to 85% are available to “not-for-profit organisations” to support “green growth” projects. Under the fund, grants for land purchase may be considered for projects that deliver significant conservation or public access benefits.
A £2m tranche of the Environmental Challenge Fund closed to applications on 1 June 2021. DAERA recently contributed £972,000 to help the Woodland Trust buy the 386-acre Mourne Park outside Kilkeel, and £50,000 towards the purchase of 247 acres of land at Cavehill outside Belfast, also by the Woodland Trust.