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An important milestone in efforts to promote woodland planting to combat climate change has been reached with the first award of Woodland Carbon Code group scheme validation.
The Woodland Carbon Code is a voluntary United Kingdom standard which helps to ensure that ‘carbon forestry’ projects really do deliver the carbon benefits which their promoters claim.
And the first award of validation to a number of woodland projects brought together as a group means that potentially significant cost savings will become possible for those who want to plant trees to compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions.
Until now, validation has been open only to single new woodlands, but following the success of the group scheme pilot, group validation will shortly be made available to all applicants. Dr Vicky West, a climate change analyst with the Forestry Commission, which administers the carbon code, explained,
“When we launched the Woodland Carbon Code in 2011 we recognised that the cost of gaining validation might be a limiting factor for some potential applicants, especially those creating small woodlands. We have therefore developed a group validation option whereby a number of woodland projects can be brought together to apply for validation as a group, with the potential to achieve significant cost savings.
“We expect this will make validation attractive to a greater range of owners of smaller projects.
“The 2009 Read Report on forests and climate change said that if an extra four per cent of the UK’s land were planted with new woodland over the next 40 years, it could be locking up 10 per cent of its predicted greenhouse gas emissions by the 2050s.
“We therefore hope this will help to stimulate more woodland planting across the UK, not just for the carbon benefits, but for all the social, economic and environmental benefits they provide.”
The group of 11 woodland projects which were awarded Carbon Code validation are all owned by a single owner, Buccleuch Estates, in Dumfries & Galloway, the Scottish Borders and Northamptonshire. Jim Colchester, Woodlands Enterprise Manager of Buccleuch Estates, commented,
“We were delighted to help develop the group validation scheme by taking part in this pilot. It will help to open Code validation to many participants looking to create smaller carbon woodlands who might otherwise not be able to contribute to combating climate change and improving the environment in this very worthwhile way.”
The four other groups of projects taking part in the pilot are expected to be awarded validation soon, and Dr West said group validation is expected to be made available to all comers during May.
Owners of WCC-validated projects may sell the rights to the carbon expected to be absorbed by their woodlands to investors as a means of compensating for greenhouse gas emissions. They may quote their validation, and use the code logo, as a reassurance to investors that their projects will achieve the carbon benefits claimed. It is also an assurance that the woodlands will be sustainably managed to the high standards set out in the UK Forestry Standard and its associated Climate Change Guidelines for Forestry.
Further information is available from www.forestry.gov.uk/carboncode, by emailing email@example.com, or from local Forestry Commission woodland creation officers, commercial woodland agents, or carbon companies.
NOTES TO EDITOR:
- Information about the Woodland Carbon Code will be available, and representatives will be on site to answer questions and give advice, at farming and rural events this year including: Beef Expo, 23 May; North Sheep, 5 June; Sheep South West, 11 June; the Royal Highland Show, 20-23 June; the Livestock Event, 3-4 July; and the CLA Game Fair, 19-21 July.
- Groups of woodland planting projects require a ‘group scheme manager’, and can be brought together by a number of means. They could, for example, all be owned by the same owner, or be managed by the same woodland management company or agent, or be in the same local area, or be brought together by a local authority or environmental charity. The group scheme manager for the Buccleuch group is Forest Carbon Ltd, which has undertaken the carbon calculations, put them through validation, and brokered deals with corporate carbon investors.
- The 11 Buccleuch woodland projects which were awarded validation range from 1.5 to 78 hectares (3.75 – 195 acres), with nine being smaller than 20ha (50 acres). Together they will sequester, or remove from the atmosphere, more than 85,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 100 years. Buccleuch have sold most of the rights in their validated woodlands to a high-street retail chain, an insurance company and a road and rail transport operator.
- Projects can only be validated if they meet the code’s rigorous requirements for sound forest management, sustainability and carbon ‘accounting’. It uses independent certification companies approved by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) to audit project proposals. Validated projects must subsequently be ‘verified’ at least every 10 years to check that targets are being met.
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most common of the greenhouse gases causing the atmospheric warming which is changing Earth’s climate. Growing trees sequester CO2 from the atmosphere, and use carbon atoms to form wood while emitting oxygen back to the atmosphere.
- The UK Forestry Standard sets out the government vision of 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.
- 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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