6 May 2022

Rules strengthened around woodland carbon schemes

New measures are being introduced to the Woodland Carbon Code to ensure it remains the gold standard for verifying carbon credits associated with woodland planting schemes.

There has been rapid growth in the carbon market in Scotland in recent years.

With a broader range of woodlands applying to the Woodland Carbon Code, and for increased scrutiny, Scottish Forestry has strengthened the Code with revised “additionality” tests.

These tests will foster trust in the opportunities that forestry has to deliver high quality carbon credits.

Welcoming the new measures, Environment Minister Màiri McAllan said:

“In the last two years over 500 new projects in Scotland have registered with the Woodland Carbon Code, a fourfold increase.

“It is natural for carbon standards to evolve as carbon markets develop. Tougher new tests under the Woodland Carbon Code will provide added assurance to investors, land managers and the public that carbon credits are reliable, credible and crucially, additional in our journey to Net Zero.

“The new tests will also encourage species diversity in woodlands, bringing benefits for biodiversity.

“And strengthened additionality criteria will weed out woodland creation schemes that would be financially viable without carbon credits. This keeps the woodland carbon market in Scotland robust and credible.”

Demand for carbon credits has been cited as one of the reasons for the current high prices being paid for plantable land.

The new tests may cool this trend by reducing the risk of “over-bidding” by those buying land who might otherwise expect part of the cost to be recouped from carbon credits.

The key changes to the additionality tests, which will come into force on 1st October this year, are:

• Simplification to make it easier for project developers and validators to use them:
• Some standardisation to ensure they are applied consistently; and
• Changes to ensure that high land values do not skew the calculations.

The changes to the rules are also in line with the Scottish Government’s recent announcement on new Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital, which ensures woodland projects deliver social, environmental and economic benefit.

The additionality tests were reviewed by a stakeholder group of forestry and land interests. This included two independent assessments by a senior economist and an international carbon markets expert.
Version 2.2 of the UK Woodland Carbon Code, including full details of the new additionality tests, is available here.

The UK Woodland Carbon Code is managed by Scottish Forestry on behalf of the Forestry Commission in England, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Forest Service.