Woodland carbon projects contribute to just one of a hierarchy of actions that can help to combat the effects of climate change. Before considering carbon sequestration projects, organisations need to
- Measure: Understand and measure their carbon footprint (Scope 1, Scope 2 and where possible Scope 3 emissions), in line with the UK Government's Environmental Reporting Guidelines
- Science-based targets: Set targets to reduce emissions in line with the UK's commitment to reach Net Zero by 2050
- Reduce: Take action to reduce Scope 1, Scope 2 and where possible Scope 3 emissions in line with targets
Further guidance for companies considering buying carbon units is anticipated soon from the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative
The Code sets out requirements for voluntary UK based projects that aim to sequester carbon through woodland creation.
It accounts for
- carbon sequestration and emissions for new woodland creation, within the woodland boundary
- whether established by planting and natural regeneration
- under various management regimes from minimum intervention woodland to regular clearfelling.
- emissions outside the woodland boundary as a result of the project going ahead
It does not account for
- additional carbon sequestration due to changes to the management of existing woodland
- carbon stored in forest products
- the carbon saved when substituting wood products or fuels for other products or fuels with a larger carbon footprint.
Endorsed by ICROA, the Woodland Carbon Code is the voluntary standard for woodland creation projects in the UK. It sits alongside the Peatland Code on the UK Land Carbon Registry. Carbon sequestration resulting from validated projects will contribute to the UK’s national targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Corresponding Adjustments, described in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, are not currently made for UK Woodland or Peatland Carbon Units. Woodland/Peatland Carbon Units cannot currently be used in compliance schemes (e.g. the UK Emissions Trading Scheme) or to compensate for emissions outside of the UK.
In the UK Clean Growth Strategy the government commits to set up a stronger and more attractive domestic carbon offset market that will encourage more businesses to support cost-effective emissions reductions, such as through planting trees, and also to consider extending this market to include other land activities.
Defra's 25 year Environment plan states that government will introduce a reporting framework for businesses to drive demand for Domestic Offset Units and consider a Forest Carbon Guarantee scheme, using the existing Woodland Carbon Code.
The Scottish Government's Climate Change Plan has a policies in both the Forestry and the Agriculture sectors to promote the Woodland Carbon Code, and in the agriculture sector, the intention to investigate the feasibility of payments for carbon in hedgerows and trees including agroforestry as well as carbon in soil.
Company Reporting of Emissions
Verified Woodland/Peatland Carbon Units from Woodland Carbon Code/Peatland Code projects can be used by companies to compensate for their UK-based greenhouse gas emissions.
From April 2019, all quoted companies and all large companies are legally required to measure and report their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. All other companies are encouraged to do so voluntarily. The Government's Environmental Reporting Guidelines set out the process for mandatory (Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting) or voluntarily reporting of gross emissions. The guidelines also encourage organisations to compensate for their emissions by:
- Purchasing UK-based Woodland/Peatland Carbon Units or other credible international voluntary carbon credits, or
- Accounting for exporting renewable energy generation.
For more see Guidance 2.7 Carbon Statements and Reporting.
Global Voluntary Carbon Standards include:
Verra's Verified Carbon Standard 'Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses' programme covers afforestation, reforestation and revegetation, agricultural land management, Improved Forest Management and Reducing Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation.
Verra also manage the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard which focusses on the social and environmental impacts and co-benefits of land-based climate change mitigation projects. It sets standards to ensure projects include environmental and social safeguards to avoid harm, and improve the livelihoods and biodiversity of local communities. This standard doesn't create carbon credits but a project can be joint certified as VCS and CCBS to ensure the wider benefits of the carbon project.
The Gold Standard includes a Landuse and Forests Framework. It currently covers Afforestation and Reforestation, improved forest management and agriculture.
Plan Vivo supports forest-based projects to accrue environmental, social and sustainable development benefits. Projects are designed by and worked on by rural communities, and the Plan Vivo standards emphasise ongoing stakeholder consultation and the use of native species. Afforestation and Reforestation, forest restoration, agroforestry, and forest protection and management projects are all accepted under Plan Vivo.