What are PIUs, WCUs and what can I say about them?
The Woodland Carbon Code issues carbon units which represent measurable amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) removed from the atmosphere by trees as they grow – one unit is 1 tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent removed from the atmosphere. As trees take a while to grow and sequester carbon dioxide, we have two types of unit available to purchase. Companies can compensate for their UK-based emissions using carbon units from WCC projects, but not for their emissions overseas or emissions from international aviation or shipping.
A Woodland Carbon Unit (WCU) is a tonne of CO2e which has been sequestered in a WCC-verified woodland. It has been independently verified, is guaranteed to be there, and can be used by companies to report against UK-based emissions or to use in claims of carbon neutrality or Net Zero emissions.
A Pending Issuance Unit (PIU) is effectively a ‘promise to deliver’ a Woodland Carbon Unit in future, based on predicted sequestration. It is not ‘guaranteed’, and cannot be used to report against UK-based emissions until verified. However, it allows companies to plan to compensate for future UK-based emissions, or make credible CSR statements in support of woodland creation.
Units are held in the UK Land Carbon Registry, managed by IHS Markit. Every 10 years, projects are checked and, if performing well, verified. At each of these points, PIUs delivered are converted to WCUs. Over 3.7 Million tCO2e had been validated for sale as PIUs by March 2020 and the number continues to increase. There's now a growing number of verified projects with a small amount of WCUs - the number of WCUs available will increase as woodlands grow and mature.
Within the UK, companies are paying between £7 and £20 /tCO2e for purchases of Pending Issuance Units. As only a small number of verified Woodland Carbon Units have been sold, we cannot yet say whether the price for these differs. For more information on global carbon prices in forestry projects, see ‘State of the Forest Carbon Market’ reports.
Landowners and project developers can only make statements about the carbon sequestration potential of their woodland creation project if it is registered and validated to the Woodland Carbon Code.
UK-based companies can only make claims about the sequestration benefit of a woodland creation project in the UK if they have purchased either Pending Issuance Units or verified Woodland Carbon Units from a Woodland Carbon Code project, or have established a validated WCC project on their own land or land they are in control of. Only verified Woodland Carbon Units (from the Woodland Carbon Code) or Peatland Carbon Units (from the Peatland Code) are recognised in the UK Government's Environmental Reporting Guidelines.
A Pending Issuance Unit (PIU) is effectively a ‘promise to deliver’ a Woodland Carbon Unit in future, based on predicted growth. It is not ‘guaranteed’, and cannot be used to report against UK-based emissions until verified and converted to a WCU. However, it allows companies to plan to compensate for future UK-based emissions as part of the transition to Net Zero emissions by 2050; for example, a business could set out its emissions reduction trajectory to 2050 and then calculate the number of carbon units it would need to purchase, or area of woodland to invest in, so that their emissions were ‘net zero’ from a given year.
Buyers of Pending Issuance Units can make a statement about their purchase, provided they state clearly the timescale over which the expected carbon sequestration will take place. No claims of offsetting, use, compensating for, balancing emissions or carbon neutrality can be made until these units are converted to Woodland Carbon Units at verification.
The landowner or project developer could make a statement such as:
- Project [Name/Number] has listed [XXXX] Pending Issuance Units representing carbon dioxide which is expected to be sequestered between –Start and End date].
A company buying Pending Issuance Units could make a statement such as:
- Company [XXXX] has purchased [XXXX] Pending Issuance Units from Project [Name/Number] representing tonnes of carbon dioxide which are expected to be sequestered over the next [XX] years to [date]. These units, if verified, will compensate for X[X]tCO2e/[X]% of our planned emissions over the same period [and we plan to be carbon neutral by/reach net zero emissions by [date]].
- Company [XXXX] is investing in woodland creation to help meet our target to be Net Zero by 2050/as part of our transition plan to Net Zero]. We have purchased [XXXX] PIUs from project [Name/Number] representing tonnes of carbon dioxide which are expected to be sequestered [** in the period [Start – End Date]/ ** over the next [XX] years].
A landowner who wishes to ‘grow their own’ carbon units to use against the residual emissions of their land holding or against the emissions or wider business interests could make a statement such as:
- [We/Company [XXXX]] have created Project [Name/Number] to reduce the net greenhouse gas balance of our estate/business. The project has listed [XXXX] Pending Issuance Units representing tonnes of carbon dioxide which is expected to be sequestered between [Start and End Date], [**helping us with our transition to Net Zero emissions by [Date]/**helping us be carbon neutral between [Start and End date]].
For all claims: In all cases of claims about Pending Issuance Units, this could be strengthened with the following:
- This represents an expected sequestration of carbon dioxide that, if verified and converted to Woodland Carbon units, will have a positive impact on our climate. Woodland Carbon Units are monitored and verified to the Woodland Carbon Code.
A Woodland Carbon Unit (WCU) is a tonne of CO2e which has been sequestered in a WCC-verified woodland. It has been independently verified, is guaranteed to be there, and can be used by companies to report against UK-based emissions or used in ‘carbon neutral’, ‘climate neutral’, ‘net zero’ or ‘climate positive’ claims for their current claim year.
Woodland Carbon Units can be used to offset, compensate for or balance a company’s current Greenhouse Gas emissions. In order to do this you need to:
- Retire the number of Woodland Carbon Units you’d like to use from the UK Land Carbon Registry. This means they’ll be tagged as ‘used’, with a comment clarifying the purpose so no-one else can use them again.
- Ensure that any claims are accurate whether in your annual report, on signage, your website or other promotional material). For example you could make claims such as
- ‘We’ve offset/compensated for/ balanced xtCO2e of our 2020 emissions with Woodland Carbon Units from project X’ This represents a direct and quantifiable benefit to our climate which is monitored and verified to the Woodland Carbon Code.
- Ensure that annual reports follow the ‘best practice’ guidance on reporting carbon units. This could be
An organisation's Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions report, following UK government guidance, should show a company’s gross emissions for a given year and then list any compensatory activities. These could be Kyoto compliant (CDM) or overseas voluntary offsets as well as Woodland Carbon Units.
Example Company Net GHG Emissions Report (Source: Environmental Reporting Guidelines - See Chapter 2)
|Scopes of Emissions Reported on||Scope 1, 2 and 3||Scope 1, 2 and 3|
|Gross Emissions||89,510||91, 390|
|Exported Renewable Energy Generation||(18)||(15)|
|Woodland Carbon Units||(100)|
*Qualifying text for Woodland Carbon Units should include:
- The number of Woodland Carbon Units and their vintage
- The Name and ID number of the project that created them
- A link to the relevant project on the UK Land Carbon Registry project page
- A link to the relevant units on the UK Land Carbon Registry retirement page, demonstrating the retirement of these units
- The name of the validator/verifier