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CL for Rural Estates – the Duchy Story

May 2023 by Lucia Simmons

The UK’s rural estates have a huge capacity for climate action, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration. But how can rural estates best involve their teams in these solutions? The Duchy of Cornwall is the first rural estate to deliver Carbon Literacy training and has set its sights on Gold Carbon Literate Organisation (CLO) accreditation.

Why is the Duchy acting on climate?

HM King Charles III’s Legacy

Throughout his 70 years of stewardship, HM King Charles, III, as 24th Duke of Cornwall was actively involved in running the Duchy and his advocacy for the environment remained a core influence. Today, as 25th Duke of Cornwall, HRH The Prince of Wales continues this commitment to nurture and improve the estate in order to pass it on to the next generation in a stronger condition. Research from Climate Outreach shows that both HM King Charles, III and HRH The Prince of Wales are both in the top five trusted messengers on climate change for much of the British public. So, their leadership is incredibly valuable in driving climate action, not just within the Duchy but right across the UK.

A present-day threat

But it’s not just about future generations. The Duchy recognises climate change as a clear and present danger it wants to address. For example, farming feels the full impact of climate change. As of April, Cornwall remains in drought almost nine months after 2022 saw the driest summer in 50 years. Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity as a result of climate change. For the UK’s rural estates, loss of income due to extreme weather is no longer a potential future concern, but a real and present issue to tackle.

Maximising returns

The rural estates sector is the home of long-term investment. While rural estates need to minimise climate risk and build resilience, acting on climate now presents a significant opportunity to maximise future returns. To do so, rural estates must mobilise their best resources – their people – to bring their unique skills forward to tackle these issues together head-on.

How is the Duchy acting on climate?

Net Zero Target

The Duchy set an ambition to get to net zero by the early 2030s, critically encompassing their scope 3 emissions; that is, the wider carbon footprint of their entire value chain, including tenant farmers and suppliers. With an idea of the scale of the challenge, but not the pathway to getting to net zero, the Duchy brought in David Cope, founder of sustainability consultancy 600 strategy.

David identified the challenge as requiring a mix of technical and human solutions, but knew that ensuring that everyone in the Duchy understood the issues and had the capability to act was vital. That’s where Carbon Literacy training came in, and why, as Head of Sustainability for the Duchy of Cornwall, David sees Carbon Literacy as “one of the most important” of the 20+ initiatives in their Net Zero Programme.

The Duchy’s Carbon Literacy Programme


There is a lot of information on climate change out there. But the Carbon Literacy Standard helped David identify what material was relevant to, and would resonate with, the rural estates sector. The main sources of emissions, of course, differ for different sectors of society. For rural estates, farmland emissions make up a significant portion.


Going from the bigger picture view to the specifics of the situation and potential solutions in the Duchy was also reflected in the delivery. The day’s worth of Carbon Literacy training was split up into two parts, with the second being an interactive action-focused session. The Duchy has taken this ‘learning-by-doing’ approach a step further, implementing a ‘walking workshop’ where learners identify emissions being generated and solutions to tackle these together in situ on the estate. Necessarily moving from the conceptual to the practical, the training nurtured answers to the key question: “what are we going to do differently?”


Carbon Literacy has “lit a fuse” among the Duchy team. Since doing the training, everyone has embraced their net zero target with renewed vigour. It no longer felt like it was something “being done to them”. Land Steward at the Duchy of Cornwall, Matthew Morris’ proudest outcome of the Carbon Literacy training programme so far is creating the team that is equipped to go out and engage farmers on this matter and, as a consequence, seeing the recognition and appetite for engagement, particularly among the younger generation of farmers.

The Duchy combined Carbon Literacy training with a complementary programme for engaging farm tenants. Heather Webb, Future Farming Lead, Duchy of Cornwall is working with tenant farmers across the estate who are responsible for land management and assisting in the transition to regenerative farming. Land agents, Heather says, have an inherent awareness that change is happening, but fear that ‘net zero’ is yet another thing to worry about.

The need that Carbon Literacy training helps with is to direct the messaging and terminology around carbon emissions and climate action. For example, in making the business case for reducing emissions; by highlighting the potential for productivity and cost benefits as well as carbon benefits, to incentivise farmers. Given access to the right information, farmers can be supported to make their own decisions relevant to their business. Indeed, land agents are listening and taking action as a result. The Duchy has even seen competitive streaks between farmers as to who can achieve the biggest cuts to carbon emissions.

This integrated approach ensured the same language was being used across the Duchy team and the entire estate, driven by the Carbon Literacy training.

Key Takeaways

For other rural estates considering Carbon Literacy training, the Duchy of Cornwall had some key takeaways:

  • “Ideally put everyone through the training.” – Hollie Brooks, Administrator
  • “Get the governors and board members on board so you have their support and so it trickles down through the whole organisation.” – Heather Webb, Future Farming Lead
  • Hone in on the inherent optimism & positivity of the Carbon Literacy course. “It’s gold dust”. – David Cope
  • Ensure the training is bespoke – “include data on your carbon footprint if you have it and specifics of your locality”.
  • The optimal number to be trained depends on the size of your organisation – what number will it take to trigger a culture shift in your organisation?
  • You can choose to bring in external trainers (like David) or you can deliver your own training.
  • Carbon Literacy is inexpensive, “particularly compared to some of the other courses going around.” – David Cope

The Duchy acknowledges that they are by no means doing things perfectly, and they’ve certainly broken some eggs along the way. But they want to share the lessons they’ve learnt from this. As well as a sense of duty to their tenants and wider estate, the Duchy feels a wider sense of duty to spread the message about the need – and opportunity – for climate action in rural estates and the UK as a whole.

“We’ve contributed to the problem, but we’ve also got the solutions.” – Matthew Morris, Land Steward, Duchy of Cornwall

Indeed, the sector’s potential to influence is extraordinary.

To hear more about the Duchy’s Carbon Literacy story, you can watch back the recording of our webinar Carbon Literacy for Rural Estates: the Duchy Story.

To learn more about how Carbon Literacy could work for you, get in touch at info@carbonliteracy.com.

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