• What is Group Validation?
• What's involved in setting up a group?
• The Group Agreement
• Which projects are eligible?
• What’s involved in validating a group?
• What documentation do I need for group validation?
• Future developments
Group validation is an alternative approach to validation under the Woodland Carbon Code which allows a number of projects to become validated under a single statement. The validation of a Group of projects enables financial costs to be shared alongside a common responsibility for ensuring that Woodland Carbon Code requirements are met at all sites. Group validation benefits smaller woodland owners as a result of the lower validation cost per individual project.
The group shall appoint a Group Manager/ individual (who may be a named individual within an organisation).
Group validation requires a formal management structure to be established between individual woodland owners, project managers and the Group Manager. The Group management structure must demonstrate where responsibility lies for ensuring compliance with Woodland Carbon Code requirements.
The group and/or Group Manager shall be legally constituted in such a manner as to allow them to enter a service contract with the validation/verification body.
Once validated as a group, it is anticipated that groups will continue to work together for the duration of their projects/the Group Agreement.
There shall be a Group Agreement between the landowners, land managers of constituent projects (if there are any) and the Group Manager. This agreement shall, as a minimum, set out:
- The name of the group, its size and geographic scope and any other limitations on membership.
- The name and contact details of the Group Manager and the arrangements for replacing the Group Manager should this be necessary.
- The name and contact details of the constituent landowners (and land managers if there are any)
- Details of the projects covered by the agreement (unique IDs, project names, loactions and areas)
- Each projects liability for the group’s carbon rights and commitments (including consideration of whether the carbon is sold collectively or individually).
- Any other group rules.
- Signatures of the Group Manager, all the landowners (and land managers if there are any).
- The roles and responsibilities of the Group Manager and the group members as below:
The Group Manager shall:
- Maintain a register of members of the group and the individual planting projects covered by the group scheme.
- Ensure the requirements of the contract between the Group Manager and the constituent group members are adhered to.
- Establish and implement a system of document control and record keeping, holding copies of documents as required by the WCC.
- Act as the main point of contact with the Forestry Commission, the validation/verification body and the registry.
- Register the projects in the group on the registry and coordinate the project-group design (including production of a group PDD and collation of associated documentation).
- Ensure that project-group and carbon unit information in the registry is accurate and up-to-date at all times (if given permission to do so from each landowner).
- Coordinate a monitoring (carbon sequestration and sustainable forest management) and internal audit programme that meets the requirements of the WCC.
- Lead on project-group validation and ongoing verification including addressing corrective actions for non-conformities.
- Inform group members of relevant developments.
- Deal with complaints relevant to WCC certification.
- Revise the Group Agreement (as necessary) with any changes to the group membership or terms.
Group members shall:
- Abide by the Group Agreement and comply with the Woodland Carbon Code.
- Commit to a permanent land-use change to woodland and agree to manage their woodlands as per the current Management Plan for the establishment period and the longer-term management intentions for the project duration and beyond.
- Replant or undertake compensatory planting should an area be lost to e.g. wind, fire, pest & disease or development.
- Inform successor landowner(s) of the commitment to permanent land-use change, and to their commitment to this group and the Woodland Carbon Code.
- Allow the Group Manager to apply for WCC validation/verification on their behalf.
- Supply information required by the group manager and agree to internal audit by the group manager.
- Arrange to regularly monitor the carbon sequestration and sustainable forest management of the project as set out in WCC guidance and in order to maintain verification for the project duration.
- Take any corrective action required by the group manager to address non-conformities.
- Ensure that their project's carbon unit information in the UK Woodland Carbon Registry is accurate and up-to-date at all times (within their own account or via the Group Manager's).
All projects are eligible to become part of a group for validation and verification. The only limits are:
o Each group comprises of no more than 15 constituent projects.
o Planting across the whole group occurs over no longer than a 5-year period.
If a group manager wishes to make a case to create and validate a group of more than 15 projects or spanning planting period greater than 5 years, they should contact the preferred validation body and the Forestry Commission to ask for prior written approval.
The addition of new projects after the initial group validation/verification shall only be allowable in order to replace planted areas that have been withdrawn from the group, or suffered losses due to fire, disease etc. If any such additions occur between 5 or 10-yearly verification events, then a revised PDD shall be prepared and the group as a whole re-validated.
Group validation is similar to single project validation except:
• The group should submit a single Group PDD (rather than one for each project) along with the relevant additional information
• The validation body will carry out an audit of the Group Manager to assess their group documentation, control systems and management processes.
• The validation body will undertake site visits to a sample number of projects in the case that there is no Forestry Commision, WAG or Forest Service woodland creation grant in place which involved field assessments. The number and selection of projects to be sampled will be determined using a risk-based approach.
• Groups will receive a single validation statement for the group, but it will contain the details of each constituent project.
A single ‘Group PDD’ shall be prepared for the project-group as a whole (as opposed to one for each constituent project). The PDD indicates whether a section requires information for the project-group or each constituent project.
In the same way as for a single project, additional information is required in most sections and this is indicated in PDD, the Code and the relevant guidance page.
During 2014 / 2015 we will be developing and piloting verification procedures. This will include the verification of
o Projects validated individually
o Groups of projects which were validated together
o Projects which were validated individually but which would like to come together as a group to be verified.