Efforts to boost British forests’ contribution to tackling climate change reached a key milestone this week. The amount of carbon dioxide predicted to be removed from the atmosphere by woodland planting projects registered under the new Woodland Carbon Code has passed 1 million tonnes.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most common of the greenhouse gases causing the atmospheric warming that is changing the Earth’s climate. Growing trees sequester, or remove, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and this has encouraged increasing numbers of people and organisations to seek opportunities to plant trees as a contribution to tackling climate change.
This demand has stimulated a commercial interest in promoting ‘carbon forestry’ projects, and the Woodland Carbon Code is a set of standards to ensure that such projects really do deliver the carbon benefits that their promoters claim. Projects can only be certified under the Code if they meet its rigorous requirements for sound forest management, sustainability and carbon ‘accounting’. It was launched in July 2011 by the Forestry Commission, and uses independent certification companies approved by the UK Accreditation Service to audit project proposals.
Welcoming the million-tonne milestone, Forestry Minister, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, said:
“This is excellent news during Climate Week, when we are all focused on what we can do to tackle climate change.
“It demonstrates that we were right to establish the Code. The few short months it has taken for it to reach a million tonnes registered demonstrates that there is an appetite for planting new woodland to reduce our carbon emissions and contribute to the new, ‘green’ economy that we are encouraging.
“I congratulate all those involved, from the landowners who are making land available for tree planting, to the people and organisations who are investing in the projects."
Pam Warhurst, Chair of the Forestry Commission, also welcomed the news, adding,
“Trees, woods and forests provide all of us with a huge range of benefits, and carbon sequestration is one of them.
“The Woodland Carbon Code is providing a boost to efforts to provide much-needed new woodland by giving confidence to investors that the project they invest in will ‘do what it says on the tin’. It also gives confidence to project promoters, who can now approach investors with credible, independent verification of their projects’ claims.”
Further information about the code is available from the Forestry Commission website at www.forestry.gov.uk/carboncode.
NOTES TO EDITOR:
- One million tonnes of CO2 is equivalent to the CO2 emissions of about 38 million average-sized barbecue gas cylinders.
- ‘Registration’ of a proposed woodland planting project under the Woodland Carbon Code is the first step towards ‘validation’ and ‘certification’. Once registered, the proposal is audited against the standards set down by the Code, and if it satisfies the Code requirements it is ‘validated’ and thereby ‘certified’ under the Code. Certification provides evidence of the quality of the proposal, not only in carbon terms, but also in sustainable forest management terms, and is critical for attracting investors. Projects are subsequently ‘verified’ at five-yearly intervals to check that targets are being met.
- So far 57 woodland projects across the UK, totalling 2733 hectares (5565 acres), have been registered. Ten of these, totalling 760ha (1900 acres), have also now been validated. If all the projects go to plan, the 1 million tonnes of CO2 registered will be removed from the atmosphere over the next 100 years. The woodlands should actually sequester almost 1.25 million tonnes CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) over their lifetime, but a proportion of this - almost 200,000 tCO2e - will be set aside as a ‘buffer’ in case of future losses of woodland (and carbon) caused by wind, fire, pests or disease. Therefore just more than 1 MtCO2e will be claimed or reported by investors in the projects.
- Woodland established under the Code must attain high standards of sustainable forest management in line with the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) and Climate Change Guidelines for forestry. The UKFS sets out the government approach to sustainable forest management. It is the ‘yardstick’ used by all four governments in the UK when assessing applications for forestry grants, tree felling licences and approvals of forest design plans.
- When trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, they use carbon atoms to form wood, and emit oxygen back into the atmosphere.
- About 12 per cent of the UK’s land area is covered by woodland, which is more than double the woodland cover of 100 years ago. The European Union average woodland cover is 37 per cent.
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