UK’s first ever plantation of new carbon-capturing tree variety invites investment

Paulownia plantation in Spain. Image credit: WeGrow

Ethical investment crowdfunding platform Abundance Investment Ltd has launched an offer to invest in Carbon Plantations, a new business planting – for the first time in the UK – a variety of fast-growing broadleaf hardwood trees which can absorb carbon dioxide ‘up to seven times’ faster than newly planted native woodland.

Carbon Plantations, which is backed by Aether Energy, will be planting a sterile, non-invasive variety of Paulownia called Phoenix 1, which has been grown successfully in several plantations in Europe over the past 8 years – but not yet in the UK.

The Paulownia tree is thought to be one of the fastest growing trees in the world, growing up to 4m a year, with an equally efficient rate of CO2 absorption.

Nigel Couch, Managing Director, Carbon Plantations, commented on the announcement: “To reach Net Zero we need to not only reduce the carbon we emit but also capture it from the atmosphere.

“Our vision is to plant up to 3,000 hectares of woodland in England in the next 5 years, planting 2 million trees to sequester over 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over 35 years.

“Working directly with farmers, Carbon Plantations will also help regenerate our soils and boost biodiversity. We are excited about the opportunities this presents and welcome Abundance investors who want to join us on the journey.”

Having received approval from the Forestry Commission in December 2021 after a rigorous Environmental Impact Assessment, the first project will be on the Euston Estate in Suffolk.

The plantation will cover 195 hectares of land that was previously intensively cultivated, and is expected to absorb 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over its first ten years.

According to Carbon Plantations, it will also be sown with a nectar and wild bird-friendly seed mix to encourage biodiversity and help regenerate the soil.

The project is set to provide a source of sustainable UK hardwood timber, with applications in light construction and furniture making. Additionally, 15% of the land will be planted with new native woodland, with 14% open grassland.

Carbon Plantations is raising up to £4.7 million to fund the project, through secured debentures offering a return equivalent to 8% a year before tax over a 10-year term.

The minimum investment is £5 and eligible to be held in an innovative finance ISA and pension. The project returns will come from the income generated by selling the timber and carbon credits.

There is a growing demand for sustainable building materials, and 80% of timber in the UK is currently imported. The project will also qualify for carbon credit payments under the Woodland Carbon Guarantee Scheme run by the Forestry Commission, which is intended to promote the planting of new woodlands in England.

Bruce Davis, co-founder and Managing Director of Abundance Investment, commented: “The UK needs to increase its homegrown woodland resources significantly in the next 30 years if we are to meet our targets to be Net Zero by 2050.

“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.”

More information about this project is available on the Abundance website.