Solicitors Journal

The concept of woodland carbon units (WCUs) is simple. Your client plants trees and thus captures (or sequesters) carbon, helping to contain or reduce what others emit. ‘Emitters’ of carbon wish to – or must by local law – reduce their carbon emissions. Hence, they are willing to ‘buy’ the carbon sequestration your client’s planting entails.

Authors: Keith Wallace

WCUs are an attempt to set up some demi-official process, to bring order and transparency – and to reward, financially, tree-planters. You register your planting, claim units and, over the years, prove them. When proved, they are sold. The buyer ‘retires’ the units bought and claims these as an emission offset. But there is a thicket of caveats.

Who sets the rules?

WCU is run by a commercial data provider, IHS Markit, under the title of the UK Land Carbon Registry. The overall framework is in the Woodland Carbon Code. The registration and marketing function is governed by IHS Markit’s rules and procedures.

Does all tree-planting count?

No. The idea is that it must be new planting – no previous woodland on site in the preceding 25 years. So, replanting an existing acreage of forest – normally obligatory under one’s felling licence – does not count. Nor does compulsory planting imposed as a planning condition elsewhere.

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