The government is eyeing a major tree planting push across England with the launch of a new £50m market-based scheme to provide long-term funding for farmers and landowners who invest in woodland creation.
The Woodland Carbon Guarantee, which was announced yesterday ahead of purdah restrictions coming into effect, is designed to encourage farmers and landowners to plant more trees and create new woodland in return for payments as those trees grow, providing them with long-term income to enhance the business case for natural carbon sequestration efforts.
Successful applicants to the scheme will be offered the option to sell Woodland Carbon Units to the government over a 35-year contract at a guaranteed price set by auction, thereby providing new income for land managers who can help businesses offset their carbon emissions, Defra explained.
Zac Goldsmith, the government’s Forestry and Climate Adaptation Minister, said woodland creation was an “excellent way to help combat the effects of climate change”.
“By supporting farmers and land managers who decide to invest in tree-planting, we are making sure we tackle climate change through nature-based solutions and – as part of our 25 Year Environment Plan – help leave the environment in a better state than we found it,” he said. “The Woodland Carbon Guarantee means that now – more than ever – there is no reason to delay planting trees.”
The government said woodlands and forests would play an important role in the UK’s efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, as trees are a natural carbon sink capable of locking-up CO2 from the atmosphere, while also providing benefits through biodiversity, soil conservation, and flood risk prevention.
Funding for the woodland payments scheme was first announced by the Treasury in last year’s Autumn Budget, with the move forming part of Defra’s target to plant 11 million new trees by 2022.
Sir Harry Studholme, Chair of the Forestry Commission, urged land managers and owners to consider applying to the new market-based scheme ahead of its first auction early next year.
“The Woodland Carbon Guarantee is an innovative new financial incentive for the mitigation of carbon dioxide emissions,” he said. “By underpinning the carbon price I hope it will give confidence to landowners and investors, and encourage the planting of the right kind of trees at a viable scale.”
The government hopes the scheme can act as a fore-runner for post-Brexit plans to reform agricultural subsidies to ensure farmers and landowners are only paid public money if they can demonstrate they are delivering environmental services.