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Woodland carbon
units (WCU)

In the UK, carbon offsetting is primarily delivered through woodland creation or peatland restoration.

The national Woodland Carbon programme is part of the Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) – a quality assurance standard for woodland creation projects in the UK, which assesses how much carbon dioxide has been captured. Their strategy is to help create verifiable carbon units (which can be measured) in order to track the subsequent reduction in CO2 from the atmosphere.

The £50m scheme (which is neither a grant or a fund) enables landowners and farmers (‘providers’) to measure their captured carbon and sell the ‘carbon units’ as verified Carbon Credits, defined as Woodland Carbon Units (WCUs), to the government, for a guaranteed price every five or ten years - up to 2055/56. It is index-linked for the life of the contract.

WCUs can also be sold on the open market, not just to the government.

The scheme is therefore an opportunity for providers to create new woodlands which generate an additional and long-term income stream – based on the value of the carbon captured within the growing trees.

In addition, the Government’s England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) pays providers to create new woodland, through natural colonisation, on areas as small as one hectare. Payment, for the costs of establishing, as well as managing the woodland for up to 10 years, could be up to £10,200 per hectare, plus up to a further £8,000 in Additional Contributions for public benefits, to support any woodland creation scheme.

The commercial market for WCUs comprises organisations wishing to offset their UK-based emissions by purchasing verified carbon units from WCC projects. However, WCUs cannot be purchased for emissions generated overseas, or from international aviation or shipping.

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