Woodland carbon code tightened in scramble for offset land

Intro

Taken to address the rapid growth in the carbon market in Scotland in recent years, the move is designed to ensure the proper verification of carbon credits handled through the code.

Scottish Forestry which handles the scheme said the strengthened code with revised “additionality” tests had been introduced to allow the closer scrutiny needed to maintain the integrity of the code.

Claiming to have been ‘on the case’ for many months, NFU Scotland said it had repeatedly raised its deep concerns with the Scottish Government about the impact which non-agricultural investment in land for planting purely to secure carbon credits and greenwash businesses had had on the land market.

“Those concerns were justified recently when the Scottish Land Commission published its Rural Land Market Insights Report and highlighted a 31 per cent increase in Scottish land values driven, in large part, by a significant increase in the number of non-farming investors,” said union president, Martin Kennedy.

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“That has taken the price of land well beyond the reach of most agricultural businesses and almost all new entrants.”

Kennedy said while the situation might simply be a short-term gold rush from speculators betting on future carbon values, there was a real underlying risk that the effects would be long lasting - not least in the country’s ability to address the food security crisis.

“These changes to the carbon code seek to ensure that commercial, large-scale forestry projects are justified by timber production and timber markets rather than supporting those businesses looking to recoup land investment costs through carbon credits,” he said.

“Long term timber production for timber products is absolutely justifiable. However, timber production that takes out food producing land for either the failings of other industries to address their own emissions reduction or to burn as biomass makes absolutely no sense at all from a climate change mitigation point of view.”

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In the debate around the wider issue of carbon trading the union is preparing its submission to the UK Government’s current consultation on Developing the UK Emissions trading scheme, which examines the use of carbon calculators, the role of carbon sequestration and how a carbon trading market for agriculture could work as part of a wider framework for emissions trading.

Announcing the changes, Environment Minister Màiri McAllan said that in the last two years over 500 new projects in Scotland had registered with the Woodland Carbon Code - a fourfold increase.

She said the tougher new tests would reassure investors, land managers and the public that carbon credits were reliable.

Admitting that demand for carbon credits had often been cited as one of the reasons for the current high prices being paid for plantable land, she said the new tests could cool the market by reducing the risk of over-bidding by those who hoped to offset part of the cost through carbon credits.

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