Oil industry execs should pay personal environmental tax

Oil industry

Oil industry executives should contribute to the recovery of nature devastated by the impact of pollution from their industry’s products.

That’s the opinion of former oil researcher and consultant Dr Jeremy Leggett, now founder and CEO of leading UK rewilding project Highlands Rewilding.

Passionate about bringing people together in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crisis, Dr Leggett believes oil industry executives should invest “guilt” money in rewilding and fund nature recovery at scale.

“As the earth’s atmosphere warmed, like most I didn’t take much notice of it for my first 30 years, indeed I became a recruiting agent for the very industry that was fuelling the problem, the fossil fuel industry,” said Dr Leggett. “I was a lecturer at the Royal School of Mines in London, training the petroleum geologists and engineers of the future.

“When eventually, in the 1980’s, I made the connection between the burning of fossil fuels and the earth’s dangerously rising temperatures, I decided to do something about it. So, in 1990 I joined Greenpeace as their head of science. It was a far from popular move among colleagues, but I wanted to stand up, make a change and be counted.”

Dr Leggett went on to further his career as a climate activist, taking on a series of advisory roles, writing five books on climate and energy and latterly starting businesses to make the move from climate protesting to driving tangible solutions.

After setting up the pioneering solar company Solarcentury in 1996, subsequently sold to Statkraft in 2020, he went on to found Highlands Rewilding later that year, with a plan to drive transformational change through nature-based carbon removal and biodiversity uplift projects on the land.

Natural capital projects like those delivered by Highlands Rewilding, including on the Bunloit Estate, a 513-hectare estate on the west shore of Loch Ness in Inverness-shire, and the 349-hectare Beldorney Estate in Aberdeenshire, require investment. The company is currently running a second round of fundraising to finalise the purchase of the 3,500-acre Tayvallich Estate in Argyll to further extend its ability to restore woodlands, peatlands, pastures and soils to support nature and sequester carbon.

Despite facing a cost-of-living crisis, citizen rewilders have strongly supported Dr Leggett’s fundraising efforts for Highlands Rewilding. Meanwhile, gas and oil companies are cashing in on high oil and gas prices, investing billions in new projects that will continue to pump billions of tonnes of CO2 into the world’s atmosphere.

 “We have already been blown away by the support we’ve had from over five hundred citizen rewilders who have invested to help us restore nature,” Dr Leggett said. “However, we are now seeking support directly from the source of the problem.

“I invite big oil and the fossil fuel executives to join us as allies in the nature-recovery battle we’re on the front lines of. We represent a tangible opportunity for oil industry execs to redeem themselves and help repair the damage they are causing.”

The Green Finance Institute estimates that nearly £100 billion will be needed in the UK over the next ten years to support nature-recovery targets and stop biodiversity decline by 2030. Scotland’s share of that is some £20 billion.

“Rewilding organisations like ours, who are battling to take nature restoration to scale at pace, need help to raise many millions of pounds if we’re to help reverse climate meltdown and biodiversity collapse significantly escalated by the fossil fuel industry,” said Dr Leggett.

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