There can be few more enlightening articles on rewilding or land ownership in recent weeks than the one by David Segal that ran in the New York Times, looking at the peatland restoration projects of Anders Povlsen, the Danish billionaire who owns 200,000 acres of Scotland. The title perhaps says it all: “Who will profit from saving Scotland’s bogs?”

Currently we are seeing more and more of Scotland bought up by private individuals and companies with the seemingly laudable intention of tree planting and rewilding in the name of carbon. But is carbon credit just going to be a means for the rich, who can afford to buy land, to get richer? Or are they a sure and practical way out of the climate crisis?

There’s no doubting that, if the world is going to avert severe warming, Scotland’s landscape is going to have to change. The country’s forest-depleted moors and hills must be rewilded; its peatbogs protected and restored. Carbon must be sequestered, sunk and kept there. So, on many levels, we should be grateful for the work of Povlsen. Someone needs to save the bogs.

READ MORE: Rewilding versus food crisis? It's a false choice

But let’s not forget that this is a man who made his billions in fast fashion, through his family company Bestseller. When we look at his achievements, we also have to ask the question is Povlsen, a green hero, or just a rich man trying to greenwash his past and green salve his conscience?

“Depending on your perspective,” Segal writes “he’s either the planet’s ultimate frenemy or the kind of executive that the environmental cause will never succeed without. At a minimum, he demonstrates how difficult it is to mix profits with even the greenest of intentions.”

What he’s clearly not is an out-and-out hero. Povlsen, of course, is, for many, the ultimate green laird – not only the biggest private landowner in Scotland, but also the one blazing bright-greenest with his Wildland projects. That success can also make him the poster boy for the process of turning our landscape into Natural Capital, as well as the focus of grievance, for those who see this buying up of Scotland as a new Highland Clearances.

We may welcome the restoration of our peatlands, but who, ultimately do we feel should be in charge of it and make whatever money is to be made out of it: a billionaire, or the people of Scotland?

Last year it was announced that projects to restore Scotland’s peatlands would get a share of £22 million to significantly reduce carbon emissions and support biodiversity. According to Segal, private landholders who restore peatlands will have 80 percent of their outlays reimbursed by the government, and then keep the profits from carbon-credit sales.

“In effect,” he writes, “Scotland has said: “Bill us for the digging, and keep all the gold you can mine.” This has spurred a land rush among investors, and, he observes, “the amount of money invested in Scottish land doubled last year, climbing to $330 million; one real estate agency, Savills, said it had applicants ready to invest $2.5 billion throughout the United Kingdom in what is known as natural capital.”

Many of us fret over the fact that Scotland is owned by so few, but stories like this are a reminder of the new way in which, as the world launchs on its track to carbon capitalism, that will impact us. It’s not just that land is now seen as carbon-sequestering resource, but that these nature-solutions are just goods to be traded.

Already we have seen our wind, effectively sold off to those who stand to make billions from it, in a move justified by the fact that those companies have the ability to invest and the experience to develop the infrastructure needed to magic our electricity from the power of the air and then deliver it.

Are we also giving something else we don’t even yet quite recognise – not just the land, but a new way of profiting from its ecosystems? Will we wish that Scotland’s local communities had retained some of the wealth attached to those credits? Or that they had never been put on any market in the first place?

What worries me is how this market will develop. Many, particularly those buying up Scotland, are speculating around it. No one, Segal notes, knows what the credits of Povlsen’s bog will be worth in the future. But what’s clear is that such credits form part of a dominant theory of how globally we make the shift towards net zero – harnessing the motive of profit. A lot of hope is pinned on that working, and not collapsing in a toxic shambles of greenwashing, corruption and false accounting. Meanwhile, what will this new phase will mean for the relationship between humans and the natural world? What will it mean for wealth inequality?

Who will profit from saving Scotland’s bogs? We all know the likely answer – and it’s the same as almost always. The rich.