Carbon Plantations is aiming to raise up to £4.7m to plant new species of fast-growing hardwood trees with strong carbon storage potential at a site in Suffolk

Ethical crowdfunding platform Abundance has opened up an investment round for Carbon Plantations, a business that is aiming to develop plantations of fast-growing broadleaf trees which can absorb carbon dioxide up to seven times faster than newly planted native woodland.

Launching the offer this morning, Abundance said interested parties could invest as little as £5 in the company, with all investments eligible to be held in an innovative finance ISA and pension. It is hoping to raise up to £4.7m overall, through secured debentures offering a return equivalent to eight per cent a year before tax over a 10- year term, it said.

Carbon Plantations’ first project, which received approval from the Forestry Commission in December, will see a non-invasive variety of Paulownia tree called Phoenix 1 planted across 195 hectares of land on the Euston Estate in Suffolk. The project is expected to absorb 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the first 10 years of its lifetime, according to the company.

Bruce Davis, co-founder and managing director of Abundance Investment, stressed that the UK needed to significantly increase homegrown woodland resources in the next 30 years to reach its net zero ambition.

“Carbon Plantations’ innovative new approach to commercial woodland cultivation can make a meaningful contribution to that effort – with an exciting new variety of tree that can lock away carbon faster and help regenerate intensively farmed soils for the benefit of future generations,” he said.

Carbon Plantation expects the Suffolk project to also provide a source of “sustainable UK hardwood timber” that can be used for light construction and furniture making. In addition to the Phoenix 1 trees, around 15 per cent of the site will be planted with new native woodland, and 14 per cent of the project will be open grassland, it noted.

Nigel Couch, managing director of Carbon Plantations, explained that the Suffolk plantation was just the beginning of the company’s plans. “Our vision is to plant up to 3,000 hectares of woodland in England in the next five years, planting two million trees to sequester over five million tonnes of carbon dioxide over 35 years,” he said. “Working directly with farmers, Carbon Plantations will also help regenerate our soils and boost biodiversity.”

Carbon Plantation claims that the plantation would the first time the fast-growing Paulownia tree has been planted in the UK. It said the Phoenix 1 variety was more sustainable than other commercial forestry species because it allowed for a “biodiverse under-storey” to develop that is encouraged by leaf fall and greater access to sunlight.

Planting is expected to start in May 2022, it said, with trees supplied by European tree specialist WeGrow which will also oversee the initial planting.

The government has pledged to treble woodland creation rates in the UK to 30,000 hectares a year by the end of this parliament as it looks to expand natural carbon sinks in support of the UK’s net zero emission goals. 

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