The business of carbon net zero

There’s no doubt that climate change and nature decline are the big buzzwords within the UK’s rural land sector as both Holyrood and Westminster push to meet their Carbon Net Zero targets by 2045 and 2050 respectively.

How we address these issues is placing new demands on the landowners and land managers who, as custodians of the landscape, must find a balance between securing the natural environment for future generations while supporting the multiple objectives the land must meet.

While the growing number of government targets has opened up new opportunities for the land-based economy, the application of carbon and ecosystem investment and natural capital concepts is still in its infancy and further complicated by different legislation, aims and targets both sides of the border.

At Bell Ingram we believe that a practical land management strategy is the key to navigating this fast-developing landscape and unlocking associated opportunities.

Woodland Carbon

Carbon in forestry is the hot topic at the moment. Not only does planting trees help to combat global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide, but it has the potential to generate a significant additional income for landowners.

In essence, this is because Woodland Carbon (and Peatland) is tradable and has a value. Carbon sold when trees are planted (or Peatland restored) can provide landowners with additional income. And verified carbon can be used by business to offset their UK carbon emissions.

The Woodland Carbon Code (WCC), which is administered by Scottish Forestry, is the quality assurance standard for woodland creation projects in the UK and generates independently verified carbon units. Backed by government, the forest industry and carbon market experts, the Code is unique in providing woodland carbon units right here in the UK.

Bell Ingram has an established track record of delivering Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) projects, successfully implementing both native woodland and commercial conifer schemes ranging from a few hectares to many hundreds.

From woodland creation through to long-term forest management and timber harvesting, our carbon team can offer a comprehensive range of environmental services and have the expertise to ensure the carbon opportunity in your new investment is developed to maximise potential.

Peatland Restoration

Peatland is an excellent carbon store. The hydrology of peatland, in its natural waterlogged state, prevents carbon within organic matter at the surface oxidising and being released as carbon dioxide. Restoration is crucial as degraded peatland has been contributing to rising carbon emissions.

While woodland creation carbon work is already well established, Peatland Restoration is less advanced and although there are many schemes (and even more planned) the general belief is that there will be major changes to come in order to make this more appealing/available in the future.

Like the Woodland Carbon Code, the Peatland Code is a voluntary certification standard designed to provide assurances to carbon market buyers that the climate benefits being sold are real, quantifiable, additional and permanent.

The Code was developed in 2015 and is managed by the IUCN Peatland Programme. The reduction in carbon emissions by peatland restoration is quantified, validated, and verified in a similar way to the Woodland Carbon Code.

Get in touch

Done right, these new natural capital markets offer exciting opportunities. However, carbon funding is a fast-moving and developing area and we strongly advise both buyers and sellers of carbon to take professional advice.

Please contact Partner and Head of Carbon Mike Thompson at Bell Ingram for more information. Tel. 01738 621 121 or email


Article posted on 10/02/2022

Biodiversity Net Gain and its impact on future infrastructure and housing projects 

Biodiversity Net Gain is an approach to development which aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than beforehand. Implemented correctly, it should have a positive ecological impact, delivering improvements through habitat creation or enhancement.

It’s by no means a new concept, in fact Biodiversity Net Gain has been best practice among responsible infrastructure companies, developers and landowners for some time now. Bell Ingram, for example, has been working for a major utilities client on a project to provide biodiversity enhancement for a major pipeline development in the North-West of England. Our land agents have been tasked with identifying and acquiring nearby land with the potential for habitat creation and enhancement. The project started in 2020 with completion scheduled for 2030.

It’s worth noting that Biodiversity Net Gain has been a part of planning policy in England through the National Planning Policy Framework for a couple of years, although it has not been widely adopted. 

However, the principle has now become enshrined in law as one of the more ambitious provisions of the new Environment Act 2021. This legal requirement, which applies only to England*, requires new developments to provide a 10% Biodiversity Net Gain to be maintained for a period of at least 30 years in order to secure planning permission.

While this condition has no legal effect yet (and will be brought into force through secondary legislation at a date not yet known), the provisions are far reaching and complex.

In essence, Biodiversity Net Gain means developers in England must ensure their projects deliver biodiversity improvements to meet the required 10% increase. To do this, they must evidence a project’s final Biodiversity Net Gain value using the specified Defra biodiversity metric if they want their plans to get a green light.

To achieve Biodiversity Net Gain, proposals must follow the ‘mitigation hierarchy’ which compels planning applicants to avoid harm in the first instance, then mitigate or finally compensate for losses on-site, off-site or through a combination of the two solutions. These measures will be implemented in planning conditions.

*The Biodiversity Net Gain principles set out in the Environment Act only applies to England, but the Scottish Government has committed to bring forward a new biodiversity strategy in October and its delivery plan six months later.

With a background in environmental management, Ben Hewlett is a Land Agent based in Bell Ingram’s Northwich office where he works on behalf of our utilities clients.

Article posted on 10/02/2022