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The Woodland Carbon Code, a voluntary UK standard which ensures that ‘carbon forestry’ projects really do deliver the carbon benefits they claim, passed its first anniversary today (27 July), having chalked up an impressive number of achievements.
Opportunities to undertake carbon-storing tree-planting projects are being sought by increasing numbers of people and organisations to help tackle climate change. Certification under the Code ensures that projects meet stringent national requirements for sustainable woodland management and carbon accounting.
Achievements during the Code’s first year of operation include:
- 63 projects were registered under the Code, and the amount of carbon dioxide predicted to be removed from the atmosphere has passed 1 million tonnes;
- 17 projects have been independently validated, meaning that the carbon sequestration claims and other aspects of the project have been checked and confirmed by auditors;
- the total area of new woodland created is more than 2800 hectares (7000 acres);
- code-certified woodlands have been planted in all three countries of Great Britain. Two have been verified in England, 14 in Scotland and 1 in Wales; and
- a scheme to allow groups of woodland projects to come together for certification is being piloted to make the process more cost effective for smaller projects. Five pilot groups have confirmed their participation in the pilot, which will run until early 2013.
Buccleuch Estates Ltd is involved in the pilot scheme, and Jim Colchester, its forestry manager, said,
“Along with our partners at ForestCarbon Ltd, we’re pleased to be involved in piloting a group scheme for the Woodland Carbon Code.
“Having our tree planting projects certified under the Code means we can be certain that the investment will create valuable new woodland habitats, provide a future source of timber, and deliver a lasting legacy that will benefit our climate for many years to come.”
Pam Warhurst, Chair of the Forestry Commission, welcomed news of the Code’s anniversary, adding,
“This is excellent progress in such a short time, and 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.
“Trees, woods and forests provide all of us with a wide range of benefits, and amongst them carbon sequestration is especially important.
“I look forward to the Woodland Carbon Code going from strength to strength in boosting development of the green economy and efforts to provide much-needed new woodland by giving confidence to investors that the projects they invest in will deliver real and verifiable carbon benefits.”
Dr Pat Snowdon, Head of Economics for the Forestry Commission, pointed to the potential for investment in woodland carbon projects in the UK. He explained,
“Investing in woodland creation provides companies and individuals with a tangible way to demonstrate how they are reducing their carbon footprint. From April next year UK quoted companies will be required to report their gross carbon dioxide emissions. Under the Government’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Guidelines, all companies have the opportunity to report the benefit of their investment in carbon sequestration through Woodland Carbon Code-certified projects.
“Meanwhile we’re creating tools and guidelines to help make the process as easy and practicable as possible."
Further information is available at www.forestry.gov.uk/carboncode.
NOTES TO EDITOR:
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most common of the greenhouse gases causing the atmospheric warming which is changing Earth’s climate. Growing trees sequester, or absorb, CO2 from the atmosphere, and use carbon atoms to form wood while emitting oxygen back to the atmosphere.
- 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, and uses independent certification companies approved by the UK Accreditation Service to audit project proposals.
- ‘Registration’ of a proposed planting project under the 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 requirements it is ‘validated’ and thereby ‘certified’ under the Code. Projects must subsequently be ‘verified’ at least every 10 years to check that targets are being met.
- 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 project investors.
- 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. Woodland established under the Code must attain high standards of forest management in line with the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) and Climate Change Guidelines for forestry. The UKFS sets out the government vision of sustainable forest management, and 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.
- About 13 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 is 37 per cent.
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