New Code to Determine the Quality of Forest Carbon Projects
A new scheme is being tested that will help businesses find out the real potential of tree planting projects designed to sequester carbon.
The Forestry Commission is set to begin testing a quality assurance scheme, the Woodland Carbon Code, which will provide businesses with transparency about what their contributions to forest carbon projects could achieve.
Forest carbon projects typically involve planting new areas of woodland to help counteract greenhouse gas emissions. As the trees grow, they capture CO2 from the atmosphere and turn the carbon into wood and organic matter, while releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere.
The market for these types of projects has been increasing, but there have previously been no standards to measure the claims these projects were making or to ensure results.
"There are now many commercial schemes that encourage individuals and businesses to contribute to tree planting to help compensate for their carbon footprint," said Tim Rollinson, Forestry Commission director general.
"But before investing in projects people want to know that schemes will actually deliver what they claim. The Woodland Carbon Code will provide that reassurance and will encourage more investment in tree planting in the UK."
Some countries recognise forestry in carbon trading mechanisms, with credits being issued for the carbon captured by woodland creation. The UK does not do this yet, but there is increasing interest in the use of woodlands for voluntary carbon capture projects. The Woodland Carbon Code is a voluntary standard for these projects.
In order to comply with the Woodland Carbon Code, projects must meet certain requirements. They must be sustainably managed according to national standards, use standard methods for estimating the carbon that will be sequestered, be independently verified, and meet transparent criteria and standards to ensure that real carbon benefits are made.
Project providers must also register with the Forestry Commission, stating the exact location and long-term objectives of their project. Once approved, projects will then appear in a national online register. This way, projects cannot be counted twice and businesses can clearly see what they are investing in.
Projects that meet all these requirements can carry the Woodland Carbon Code label of approval.
The code will only certify those projects that remove additional amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere compared to what would have happened in the absence of a forest carbon market.
About the Testing phase:
The code will go through a six-month pilot phase, which will test the scheme with around a dozen pilot projects throughout the UK. Adjustments will then be made to the code based on the results of the pilot phase, and officially released in 2011.
The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan suggests that 10,000 hectares of new planting per year over 15 years could remove 50 million tonnes of CO2 by 2050. If the wood was also used for construction and as biomass energy, a further 37 million tonnes of CO2 could be saved.