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
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.
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.
In the UK Clean Growth Strategy the government commits to set up a stronger and more attractive domestic carbon offset market that will encourage more businesses to support cost-effective emissions reductions, such as through planting trees, and also to consider extending this market to include other land activities.
Defra's 25 year Environment plan states that government will introduce a reporting framework for businesses to drive demand for Domestic Offset Units and consider a Forest Carbon Guarantee scheme, using the existing Woodland Carbon Code.
The Scottish Government's Climate Change Plan has a policies in both the Forestry and the Agriculture sectors to promote the Woodland Carbon Code, and in the agriculture sector, the intention to investigate the feasibility of payments for carbon in hedgerows and trees including agroforestry as well as carbon in soil.
Company Reporting of Emissions
Verified Woodland Carbon Units from Woodland Carbon Code projects can be used by companies to compensate for their UK-based greenhouse gas emissions.
From April 2019, all quoted companies and all large 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 mandatory (Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting) or voluntarily reporting of gross emissions. The guidelines also encourage organisations 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.
Woodland Carbon Units cannot be used in compliance schemes (e.g. the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme or the EU Emissions Trading Scheme); they cannot currently be used for emissions outside of the UK.
For more see Guidance 2.7 Carbon Statements and Reporting.
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 WCC units are also accounted for in meeting our national emissions reduction targets, whereas global voluntary standards generally create credits in countries without a national emissions reduction target.
UK Peatland Code. IUCN are developing a Peatland Code which accounts for the reduction in emissions when restoring areas of degraded peatland. This standard is developed along similar lines to the UK Woodland Carbon Code.
Verra's Verified Carbon Standard '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.
Verra also manage the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard which focusses on the social and environmental impacts and co-benefits of land-based climate change mitigation projects. It sets standards to ensure projects include environmental and social safeguards to avoid harm, and improve the livelihoods and biodiversity of local communities. This standard doesn't create carbon credits but a project can be joint certified as VCS and CCBS to ensure the wider benefits of the carbon project.
The Gold Standard includes a Landuse and Forests Framework. It currently covers Afforestation and Reforestation, improved forest management and agriculture.
Plan Vivo 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.