Learn how to get a carbon-based revenue from woodland


On-farm tree planting is linked to diversification alternatives, additional income, higher farm productiveness and assembly wider environmental objectives – with timber with the ability to lock up carbon and assist nature restoration.

For farmers trying to earn a living from woodland by way of the sale of carbon credit, there’s a recognised scheme – the Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) – that operates out there, offering safety and confidence for each patrons and sellers.

In England, Scotland and Wales, the WCC acts because the rulebook and offers formal recognition to the potential of woodlands to take in carbon dioxide from the environment and supply a number of different advantages.

See additionally: The advantages of timber for farm net-zero

Woodland Carbon Code – the fundamentals

To meet the necessities of the Woodland Carbon Code (WCC), woodland tasks should:

  • Be registered, together with actual places and long-term targets
  • Meet nationwide forestry requirements, in order that they’re sustainably and responsibly managed
  • Have a long-term administration plan
  • Use normal strategies for estimating the carbon that shall be sequestered
  • Demonstrate that they are going to ship extra carbon advantages
  • Maintain verification during the venture.

Over time, WCC tasks endure successive verifications, the primary of which occurs 5 years after the timber are planted, with subsequent verifications each 10 years.

This includes counting the rising timber, ensuring the precise quantity and species are there and that they aren’t being broken by pests, illness or excessive climate.

There are prices related to the code. While it’s free to register with the UK Land Carbon Registry, there are one-off validation prices of £1,100-£1,400 for every venture, in addition to verifications prices each 10 years, of £1,600-£2,000 for each venture.

Along with the Woodland Carbon Guarantee (see “What is the Woodland Carbon Guarantee?”, beneath), it units a typical and offers an agreed long-term worth for the carbon accrued.

It additionally encourages a constant strategy to woodland carbon tasks, guaranteeing that woodlands are managed to nationwide requirements, and addresses the important thing ideas of additionality and permanence.

This implies that all carbon credit coming to the UK market symbolize everlasting sequestration of carbon dioxide that may not have occurred in any other case.

What is the Woodland Carbon Guarantee?

The Woodland Carbon Guarantee (WCG) is a £50m authorities scheme designed to stimulate woodland creation in England.

Developed to make sure everlasting elimination of carbon dioxide from the environment, consistent with the federal government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, it was launched in November 2019 and began in early 2020.

The WCG sits throughout the Woodland Carbon Code framework and is one path to market.

It supplies farmers with the choice to promote captured carbon, within the type of verified carbon credit, to the federal government for a assured worth each 5 to 10 years, as much as 2055-56.

If they like, farmers can select to promote the credit on the open market, moderately than to the federal government.

The assured worth is meant to offer long-term certainty and is about at a degree that makes funding worthwhile.

Contracts are awarded by way of sealed bid reverse auctions each six months, and profitable a contract underneath the scheme offers sellers the choice to promote carbon credit to the federal government at a assured worth.

Carbon revenue

For farmers and landowners there are two methods to grasp carbon revenue by way of the code.

An upfront sale of future carbon by way of pending issuance items (PIUs) because the wooden is planted is one possibility.

The different is to attend till the carbon has been sequestered and promote it within the type of woodland carbon items (WCUs), which can take 15-25 years.

Both routes have benefits and drawbacks, so might lend themselves to various kinds of woodland creation tasks and enterprise constructions.

Either method, carbon credit can carry ahead income from a woodland, in addition to offering extra revenue, however they aren’t an entire resolution to creating woodlands pay, says Ashley Hardaker, lecturer at Bangor University.

“There are lengthy timescales concerned in woodland creation,” he warns.

“The Woodland Carbon Code is a method of bringing additional finance into woodlands, but it surely’s necessary to grasp that the sooner you are taking the cash, the much less it’s more likely to be.”

Selling carbon credit early at a less expensive price or ready for extra revenue in future years is a person selection, he says, however there are dangers related to each that farmers want to understand.

Risk recognition

“Once you enable carbon to go away the farm, it goes onto another person’s stability sheet,” he stresses. “In the push to hit our net-zero targets, that may come again to hang-out you.”

Carbon credit can solely be used as soon as – farm companies can promote them to a 3rd get together to compensate for his or her emissions or they will use them internally to set towards their very own emissions, explains Dr Hardaker.

His different level is that timber can fail or die, so there’s a threat of reversibility.

Climate change, wildfires and different occasions could be disastrous. It’s not like dropping a wheat crop – there are far better repercussions from dropping a woodland, particularly in the event you’ve already dedicated the carbon.”

That is some extent that Emma Stewart, carbon markets venture supervisor on the Forestry Commission, additionally emphasises.

“You must replant within the case of disaster,” she says. “You can’t simply go away it to pure regeneration – the ‘guidelines’ are very clear on this.”

She provides that there’s an in-built buffer pool within the WCC of 20%, in order that if one thing goes unsuitable, carbon that has been offered ahead remains to be obtainable to patrons.

“It works by taking PIUs from each venture and holding them in a central pool. It’s a bit like insurance coverage.”

While there are grants and annual upkeep funds obtainable to assist new woodland creation – with the England Woodland Creation Offer being only one instance – most schemes contain a hefty quantity of paperwork.

The latest announcement that the England Woodland Creation Offer will change into a part of Local Nature Recovery within the Environmental Land Management scheme from 2025 implies that present settlement holders will be capable of switch into the Local Nature Recovery tier sooner or later, eradicating one of many causes to delay tree planting.

Carbon worth

In phrases of the carbon market, most companies are usually not required to offset their carbon emissions but, which suggests it’s the patrons who dictate the market worth.

As the market is essentially voluntary, the composition of the woodland and its narrative can decide the value paid.

At the time of writing, the final public sale noticed WCUs reaching a median worth of £23.70, whereas PIUs had been going for £5-£8.

The subsequent public sale takes place in November 2022, so count on these averages to vary.

According to the Forestry Commission, costs paid fluctuate within the non-public market and the worth is affected by classic, however £10-£25-plus a unit is an efficient guideline, with woodlands producing between 100-500 items/ha.

As one unit is equal to 1t of carbon, meaning the entire revenue is anyplace between £1,000-£12,500-plus/ha.

There isn’t any minimal measurement of woodland to enter the WCC, however there are prices related to the required validation and verification, so it could make sense to group small tasks collectively, factors out Ms Stewart.

“Usually the value for a tonne of carbon determines the financial degree of woodland creation that’s viable,” she says. “Some tasks are at present incomes as much as £40/t carbon dioxide equal, which makes most sizes viable.”

Otherwise, there’s funding to assist a brand new venture from the England Woodland Creation Offer, which supplies a one-off cost of £8,500/ha adopted by annual upkeep funds of £300/ha for 10 years.

Additional quantities of as much as £8,000/ha can also obtainable for woodlands that present wider social and environmental advantages.

The Woodland Creation Planning Grant provides as a lot as £30,000 in the direction of the planning of a woodland venture.

Whole farm state of affairs

Dr Hardaker prefers to consider woodland as a part of the entire farm unit, the place it acts as a carbon pump that has an necessary position in mitigating a number of the farm’s greenhouse gasoline emissions.

As reaching carbon neutrality on farms will change into crucial within the subsequent 5 to 10 years, he advises warning in order that incomes from woodland carbon credit isn’t given precedence over the farm’s carbon state of affairs.

“Think about what may occur if sturdy laws are launched and farms begin to be taxed on their emissions. In that state of affairs, woodland shall be a extremely necessary characteristic.”

For this motive, planting a woodland needs to be a complementary exercise to the farming enterprise, not a price to it, he says.

But balancing what it prices to ascertain with the revenue that may be generated from it’s tough.

“As farms make smart adjustments as a part of the transition course of, woodland could be a helpful revenue stream,” Dr Hardaker says.

Once these adjustments have occurred, steady farm companies shall be offering wholesome meals, panorama, biodiversity and employment, all of which give a higher-quality carbon offset.

“When you’ll be able to present carbon sequestration and a variety of different advantages, you’re more likely to get a better reward – each from carbon markets and from what it does for the remainder of the farm.”

Natural capital markets are of their infancy, he says, however they may additionally apply to woodland.

“Stacking of revenue streams is a definite risk – in spite of everything, a chunk of woodland ticks various containers, from erosion and air pollution management to flood administration and habitat creation.”

Hedgerow Carbon Code

Farmers who need to unlock the revenue technology potential of hedgerows in the identical method as woodland are watching the Hedgerow Carbon Code pilot scheme with curiosity.

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), which used grant funding to develop the brand new code, is hopeful that it’s going to change into the standard assurance normal for hedges.

Testing has began on three arable farms in England, with the objective of recognising the carbon sequestration and biodiversity advantages of hedgerows and discovering methods to reward farmers for planting and sustaining them.

In an identical technique to the Woodland Carbon Code, it would calculate and confirm the carbon seize potential of hedgerows, resulting in the manufacturing of carbon credit that may be traded.

As Alastair Leake of GWCT explains, the fledgling code ought to encourage enhancements to hedgerows and supply entry to a market with a possible worth of £60m.

“Hedges sequester carbon at twice the speed of woodland due to their three-dimensional linear construction.

“There are loads of previous hedgerows on arable farms, for instance, that are not wanted for his or her main operate of containing livestock, so there’s no incentive to keep up them,” he says.

By attaching a price to them, this might change and immediate farmers to plant, handle and restore them, he believes, serving to the farming business to succeed in its net-zero goal.

The new code additionally has the potential to be developed additional to observe hedgerow biodiversity, for calculating biodiversity credit for pure capital markets.

Transition Farmer Andy Bason

A 10ha wooden is being planted by Transition Farmer Andy Bason in Hampshire, with one of many farm’s much less productive arable fields getting used for the venture.

While carbon seize and biodiversity achieve are attainable future revenue streams from the wooden, they weren’t the principle causes behind the unique resolution to go forward.

Leaving the land in a greater state and making a legacy for future generations had been uppermost within the proprietor’s thoughts, as was using nature-based options that work for the broader panorama.

Some 20,000 timber shall be planted, with 80% being native species and 20% non-native, because of funding from the England Woodland Creation Offer.

In addition, a pond and a few rides and glades shall be included, to offer extra for wildlife.

The plan is for the wooden to hyperlink up with different habitats, so new hedges may even be planted.

What about cashflow?

There are two fundamental concerns when wanting on the revenue you may make from a woodland venture.

The first is that the speed of carbon sequestration in a rising wooden adjustments all through its lifetime.

Slow progress initially, along with soil disturbance that happens with floor preparation, means many woodland creation tasks barely break even carbon-wise by yr 5.

After 15-20 years, the timber have laid down good root techniques and are rising quickly, with sequestration charges growing, too.

Second, releasing revenue from the sale of woodland carbon items (WCUs) takes a really very long time however achieves increased costs.

Whereas pending issuance items could be offered upfront, most tasks received’t have many WCUs to promote till 15 or 25 years down the road. If you’ll be able to afford to attend, WCUs could be profitable.