Natural Capital for Scottish Communities

Globally, the value of the carbon market is growing fast and is estimated at £675 billion. In the UK, there are around 2,000 registered carbon projects, and the London Stock Exchange is getting involved. While it is a vast market, climate change policies in the UK are creating new income opportunities for local communities. Several community groups in Scotland are already benefiting from the UK carbon market, and many more could join them.

So, what do we mean by the carbon market? Ultimately, it is an attempt to control the growth of greenhouse gases. The system creates an an opportunity to sell carbon credits to industrial and commercial companies interested in lowering their carbon footprint. 

The process

Community groups can be involved as landowners or develop partnerships with local landowners willing to share their profits.

The concept is relatively simple:

  1. A landowner develops a woodland or peatland restoration project in the UK.
  2. The project is validated by the relevant authority, and “carbon units” are created.
  3. The landowner sells its carbon units to companies, generating an unrestricted income.
  4. The company uses the carbon units bought to offset its emissions.

 The list of UK-based projects is available on a dedicated registry. The map below from The Ferret shows most projects registered in Scotland.

Carbon unit buyers

The carbon units issued can be sold to generate income. Each carbon unit is equivalent to one ton of CO2 absorbed. Prices usually vary from £25 to £75 per carbon unit.

Most buyers are private companies based in the UK. Buying carbon units allow them to offset their annual CO2 emissions. For example, carbon unit sellers can select their buyers by refusing to sell to companies with a negative social impact.

Social impact

Buyers can also choose who they buy their carbon units from. Some buyers are willing to pay a higher price per carbon unit for projects that have a positive social impact, for example, projects that include a community woodland area or who share a part of their profit with the local community. Some organisations like Trees for Life share their profit from carbon unit sales with community groups. Some private landowners do too – there is no legal requirement to share their profit, but some communities located near woodland and peatland restoration projects have successfully secured funding from the landowners.

Woodland and peatland codes

There are 800 woodland carbon projects registered in Scotland and 100 peatland carbon projects in the UK, usually lasting from 35 to 100 years. The main regulations in the UK are the Woodland Carbon Code and the Peatland Code. They set rules on projects’ eligibility and help measure the number of carbon units issued. 


Developing carbon projects can be challenging and requires some specialist knowledge. There is support available, including through the Woodland Trust

Community Enterprise is organising an event on carbon projects on the 25th of January at 12:30 pm. We will cover all the essential information for community groups and support organisations interested in being involved in carbon projects. Presentations from Community Enterprise, the Woodland Trust and Mull and Iona Community Trust will be followed by a Q&A.