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Forestry Commission launches woodland carbon accreditation scheme

Carbon offset news – by Ann Elise Taylor
27th July 2011
Businesses that want to support the creation of UK woodlands and cut their carbon footprint at the same time, will now be able to do so with confidence thanks to the creation of the first Government approved woodland carbon accreditation scheme.
The Woodland Carbon Code, which was developed by industry stakeholders led by the Forestry Commission, has been launched to provide an improved degree of transparency and credibility to UK woodland projects designed for carbon capture and storage.

Forestry acts as a natural way to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere – trees absorb the greenhouse gases from the air during growth and release them again only when rotting or being burnt. By multiplying this effect with the creation of more woodlands, the UK’s carbon "sink" can be increased.

The market for voluntary woodland carbon capture projects has been increasing in the UK, but unlike some other countries there is no carbon trading mechanisms, with credits being issued for the carbon captured by woodland creation, in the UK. The Woodland Carbon Code is a voluntary standard for these projects.

According to the Woodland Trust, which played an integral role in putting together the code, previously unclear aspects of this form of carbon accreditation, including woodland management and the estimated amount of carbon removed by trees and woodlands, has detracted some from supporting woodland schemes. The new code, says the Woodland Trust, provides stability and standards to investors and means businesses can cut their carbon footprints and include the information in their greenhouse gas reports.

"The Woodland Carbon Code puts woodland creation on the map as part of the UK’s response to climate change," Dr. Nick Atkinson of the Woodland Trust said. "Businesses looking to voluntarily support tree planting can have confidence in the claims made around carbon removal whilst at the same time demonstrating their environmental commitment to their customers."

Specifications of the code
In order to comply with the Woodland Carbon Code, projects must be registered with the Forestry Commission, stating their exact location and long-term objectives. 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.

The amount of carbon captured by trees will be determined by a computer-based tool provided by the Forestry Commission; an independent party will carry out the initial project certification and the validation of carbon stocks later on.

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.

Business support
Some companies have already begun to remove their carbon emissions through woodland creation, according to the Woodland Trust. Education company Pearson plants trees equivalent to removing the carbon emissions created by its Penguin book and education businesses. Waitrose grocery store plants trees every time customers use the company’s online home delivery service. Travel company Eurocamp funded the planting of five hectares of woodland at Warcop, thereby removing 2,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Peter Hughes, head of CSR at Pearson, said his company is pleased that the code is being implemented.

"As a company that publishes books and newspapers, woodland creation and forest protection have always underpinned the longstanding Pearson commitment to climate neutrality," Hughes said. "We are please that there is now a carbon removal option for UK woodland creation backed up by a Government approved accreditation scheme, and we’re delighted to extend our valued partnership with the Woodland Trust through this new carbon solution."

Accreditation scheme closure
The launch of the Woodland Carbon Code follows the closure of the Government’s Quality Assurance Scheme (QAS), in May. The QAS is a carbon offset accreditation scheme for internationally approved emissions reductions credits. A small group of carbon offset providers that were accredited by the QAS are now planning to launch an independent version of the standard.

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