The Gould Belt Legacy Survey will survey nearby star-forming regions (within 500 pc), using Heterodyne Array Receiver Programme (HARP), Submillimetre Common-User Bolometer Array 2 and Polarimeter 2 on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. This paper describes the initial data obtained using HARP to observe 12CO, 13CO and C18O J= 3 → 2 towards two regions in Orion B, NGC 2024 and NGC 2071. We describe the physical characteristics of the two clouds, calculating temperatures and opacities utilizing all the three isotopologues. We find good agreement between temperatures calculated from CO and from dust emission in the dense, energetic regions. We determine the mass and energetics of the clouds, and of the high-velocity material seen in 12CO emission, and compare the relative energetics of the high- and low-velocity material in the two clouds. We present a clumpfind analysis of the 13CO condensations. The slope of the condensation mass functions, at the high-mass ends, is similar to the slope of the initial mass function.