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The Woodland Carbon Code and sequestration in context

Woodland carbon projects contribute to just one of a hierarchy of actions that can help to combat the effects of climate change. However, before considering carbon sequestration projects individuals, businesses and other organisations need to

  • Measure:  Understand their carbon footprint
  • Avoid:      Take steps to prevent avoidable emissions
  • Reduce:    Reduce remaining emissions where possible


Scope of the Woodland Carbon Code

The Code sets out design and management requirements for voluntary UK based projects that aim to sequester carbon through woodland creation. 

It does account for

  • carbon sequestration and emissions for new woodland creation, within the woodland boundary
  • woodland created by planting and natural regeneration (where some intervention is necessary to establish woodland)
  • carbon sequestration and emissions under various management regimes from frequent clearfelling to minimum intervention woodland.
  • emissions outside the woodland boundary as a result of the project going ahead 

It does not account for

  • additional carbon sequestration due to changes to the management of existing woodland
  • carbon stored in forest products
  • the carbon saved when substituting wood products or fuels for other products or fuels with a larger carbon footprint.


Where does the Code fit in?

The Woodland Carbon Code is a voluntary standard for woodland creation projects in the UK.  Carbon sequestration resulting from certified projects will contribute directly to the UK’s national targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.  

Since 2013 all quoted companies are legally required to measure and report their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.  All other companies are encouraged to do so voluntarily.  The Government's Environmental Reporting Guidelines set out the process for mandatatory or voluntarily reporting of gross emissions and also encourage organsiations to compensate for their emissions by;

  • Purchasing & retiring Kyoto-compliant or international voluntary carbon credits
  • Purchasing & retiring UK Woodland Carbon Units
  • Accounting for exporting renewable energy generation.

Reporting GHG emissions may become a requirement for all large companies in 2016, following a review of evidence from the first two years of mandatory reporting by quoted companies.

Woodland Carbon Units cannot be used in compliance schemes (eg. the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme or the EU Emissions Trading Scheme); the units are not internationally tradable in either the compliance or voluntary markets. 


Other carbon standards applying to woodland

Here are some of the voluntary carbon standards available globally.  The UK Woodland Carbon Code is aligned with the core requirements of these international standards with the exception that 'Assigned Amount Units' cannot be retired because this is not currently permitted in the UK (Assigned amounts are the Kyoto Protocol emissions targets over the period 2008-2012). The Code does not generate internationally tradable offsets.

The Verified Carbon Standard  The Verified Carbon Standard's 'Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses' programme covers afforestation, reforestation and revegetation, agricultural land management, Improved Forest Management and Reducing Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation.

The Gold Standard introduced a Landuse and Forests Framework in 2013.  It currently covers Afforestation and Reforestation but there are plans to include improved forest management and agriculture in future.   

The Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards  The Standards focus on land-based climate change mitigation projects, and their social and environmental impacts and co-benefits, but does not provide emission reduction credits. It sets standards for forest conservation, reforestation, agroforestry and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, which all must ensure they include environmental and social safeguards to avoid harm, and improve the livelihoods and biodiveristy of local communities. To gain credits, a forest carbon project must be linked with another carbon verification standard, such as Verified Carbon Standard or CarbonFix Standard for example.

Plan Vivo  Plan Vivo is a standard that supports forest-based projects to accrue environmental, social and sustainable development benefits. Projects are designed by and worked on by rural communities, and the Plan Vivo standards emphasise ongoing stakeholder consultation and the use of native species. Afforestation and Reforestation, forest restoration, agro-forestry, and forest protection and management projects are all accepted under Plan Vivo. The Foundation certifies and issues offset credits in advance of sequestration to compliant projects in the form of 'Plan Vivo Certificates'. Companies and individuals are able to purchase Plan Vivo Certificates directly from the projects or through a number of retailers and brokers registered with Plan Vivo.


Last updated: 16th June 2015