Milestone 04


Bwlch Y Groes Peatland Restoration


Identify and Work with Buyers


Project Summary

The Bwlch Y Groes peatland project is the first project in Wales that has used a blend of public funding and carbon finance to restore degraded peatland. This was achieved via the IUCN UK Peatland Carbon Code. The site covers 66 hectares in Bwlch Y Groes, on the edge of Snowdonia National Park. The site has been owned by the Roberts family for several generations, who predominantly focus on beef and sheep farming.

Milestone 1: Initial Project Scoping

Often the initial task is to understand the site(s) you want to use and the land use change needed for nature restoration or creation. This includes considering the goals of the land managers involved, the vision within the wider catchment or neighbouring area, and whether there are permits or planning consent needed for any proposed changes.

At this stage, you can also conduct a high-level assessment to determine which revenue streams can be generated from ecosystem services , e.g. carbon credits, flood reduction cost savings, or biodiversity units, which will be crucial for identifying buyer interest.

Finally, it is useful to have an idea of the costs of the project and potential grant funding that may be available to support initial development.

Milestone 2: Identify and Work with Sellers

Initial ownership of the ecosystem services will belong to the landowners or, in some cases, the tenants of the sites that the project is using. However, these can be passed onto others, such as third-party project developers, with appropriate legal arrangements and compensation. In some cases, there may be a sole seller of the ecosystem services, where the site or landholding is large enough that it delivers the volume of ecosystem services needed to cover the costs of the project and attract buyers.

However, in order to achieve scale and impact, a project will likely involve multiple sellers, such as neighbouring farmers and estate managers. Scale of land is often needed to deliver significant environmental outcomes, and also to attract private finance. Project developers must plan how they initially contact and engage with these sellers going forward, building their wants and needs into the project.

Milestone 3: Baseline and Estimate Ecosystem Services

At this point, you will have understood the vision for the project and identified a particular ecosystem service or set of services to be sold. The next step will be to carry out detailed analysis – baselining each ecosystem service and quantifying what will be able to be delivered from the interventions, as well as planning how to monitor and maintain these interventions. You will need to rely heavily on ecological expertise for this more scientific Milestone.

At this step, standards, verification and accreditation methods will be considered in more depth.

Milestone 4: Identify and Work with Buyers

Based on your earlier market analysis in initial project scoping, you will have identified one or more groups of beneficiaries who may be willing to ‘buy’ or pay for the ecosystem service(s) to be created, restored or maintained. Buyers vary – as do their requirements – but at this step, greater buyer engagement is now needed to develop a deal that channels money towards the nature-positive outcomes that your project wants to deliver.

 

 

Milestone 5: Develop Business Case and Financial Model

You’ll have started building your business case and financial model in earlier steps – laying out your vision, the market proposition and estimating costs and income. This step offers a review, in addition to providing details on information needed to build out the financial model and business case more fully. Both of these key documents will be iterated throughout project development, and may be altered during project delivery as new information emerges. These documents are interlinked and, if developed correctly, will ensure your project’s viability and also help you with discussions with stakeholders including sellers, buyers and future investors.

The financial model will also enable you to better understand the type of structure your project may take to attract investment (i.e., an environmental bond, a loan, an equity investment) and what sort of returns you can afford to pay/offer.

Milestone 6: Develop a Governance Structure

A governance structure will inform the way in which the project is run when fully operational and for what purpose. It identifies appropriate decision making processes, who is responsible for what actions, and what controls are in place to make sure that the project is meeting its stated goals, all while abiding by the risk appetite of its engaged stakeholders. The legal entity to host the project will be a key driver in this, and the appropriate choice of entity will be dependent on several factors that are outlined below.

Your governance structure should align with and underpin your business case, as a necessary component of how the project will deliver its environmental outcomes and other strategic targets.

Milestone 7: Identify and Work with Investors

It is important to note that not all projects will need up-front investment, but for those that do, this section provides a framework for thinking around the development of the investment model. This does not constitute financial advice – as the GFI is not licensed to do so. However these considerations are based on the insight offered by project developers and other market stakeholders.

An investor will be a new core stakeholder in your project, and it’s just as important to think of what you require from investors, as much as what they require from you – so that you can build a positive and collaborative relationship with them.

This entails defining the investment ask (in line with the financial model), the strategy for approaching the right investors, and the negotiation of terms that can then be formalised in contract development (Milestone 8).

 

Milestone 8: Establish Legal Contracts and Closing

When all relevant stakeholders have been engaged and their terms of engagement are clarified as much as possible, this is the time to develop the legal contracts and close the deal. This stage is last because legal fees are expensive, and it is generally advised to determine as much as possible in previous stages before

Note: The information in this Milestone does not constitute any form of legal advice but instead serves as practical advice on how to manage engagement with lawyers and the process of contract development.

The Green Finance Institute is not a firm of solicitors or connected in any way with the courts. The information and opinions we provide in this section and across the Toolkit do not address your individual requirements and are for informational purposes only. They do not constitute any form of legal advice. We recommend that appropriate legal advice should be taken from a qualified solicitor before taking or refraining from taking any action.

Community Engagement

Community engagement is highly advisable for any project that aims to sell ecosystem services, to ensure fair outcomes for local communities and the long-term success of the project. Project developers can build connections with local stakeholder groups early on to spot both risks and opportunities.

Policy and Regulation

Project developers and enterprises will need to keep a continuous check on how current and future policy may affect the project, and also opportunities for the project to inform policy. The role of private finance for nature across the UK is being encouraged by the UK government and its devolved administrations, and new rules, standards and markets are being developed.

 
Acknowledgements 

 

With thanks for giving their time and insight to this case study:

Lisa Roberts, Farmer, Pennant Farm

Ben Woodliffe, Taproom Supervisor and Sustainability Lead, DEYA Brewing Co

Rachel Harvey, Peatland Officer, Snowdonia National Park Authority

 

Next Milestone

Mapping potential buyers and buyer limitations

The Peatland Code allows for the carbon emission reduction benefits to be sold as ‘units’ to voluntary buyers who may use these to offset their own emissions.

The Peatland Code carries a small geographical restriction as to its potential buyer pool. Carbon units can technically be bought by any organisation in the world, as carbon emissions are regarded as having a non-localised impact on the environment (i.e., affecting the global atmosphere). However, the UK government has restricted the sale of voluntary carbon credits produced within the UK to companies with UK based operations, in order to support the government’s legally binding Net Zero Strategy.

 

Approaching Buyers

With no prior experience of voluntary carbon markets, the Roberts family were unsure as to how to approach buyers. They engaged a broker, Forest Carbon, one of the first Peatland Code brokers in the UK, as it had a track record and offered to lend a portion of the unit sales up front, with the balance paid once a buyer was found. This provided assurance to the Roberts against their uncertainty about market demand.

Forest Carbon distributed a brief overview of the Bwlch Y Groes project amongst its network of potential buyers, and received expressions of interest from four separate organisations. It hosted virtual meetings between them and the Roberts family over the course of a month in 2020. The Roberts Family accepted a final offer from DEYA Brewing Co, a brewery based in Cheltenham, England, for all 2,335 units.

 

Buyer considerations

DEYA Brewing Co (DEYA) first considered the use of carbon units when it modelled the carbon footprint of its operations and decided to use carbon offsets to mitigate the emissions it was unable to reduce.

Ben Woodliffe, Taproom Supervisor and Sustainability Lead, researched peatland restoration and pursued this idea for several reasons. “I really liked the fact that peatland restoration delivers more than one benefit that is relevant to our business. As a brewery, clean water is one of our major inputs, and peatlands have great water filtration properties,” says Woodliffe.

As part of his desktop research, Woodliffe contacted Forest Carbon to learn more about offsetting options. Forest Carbon advised them on elements of the project and the Peatland Code that addressed common concerns for buyers. These included the permanence of the emissions reductions, and avoidance of the units being ‘double-counted’ by separate buyers. DEYA was therefore comfortable with the concept of units under the Peatland Code when the company engaged with the Roberts.

 

Photo Credit: DEYA Brewing Co

 

On the project itself, Woodliffe comments: “The idea of purchasing from a single project that we could fully support was appealing. The carbon units will be realised over 35 years, but DEYA has long-term sustainability ambitions, which means this time horizon wasn’t so much of a challenge to us. We want to genuinely offset and not rely on short-term fixes.”

 

Assessing the buyer

The Roberts family approved of DEYA’s long-term approach to sustainability and also its existing efforts to limit the carbon and environmental impacts of its business model. “It was important for us to sell carbon credits to a company that is trying to do things sustainably anyway, instead of the offsets being a standalone activity,” says Lisa Roberts.

 

Taken from DEYA Brewing Co’s carbon footprint assessment, via its website 

 

Price setting

Roberts stresses the importance for project developers to be clear on their minimum price, and to have a rationale for how much to sell and by when: “We were early movers in this space and we didn’t have too many units to offer, so we were keen to sell as many as we could to mitigate the price risk.”

The minimum price needed for the Bwlch Y Groes project was clarified by the financial additionality calculator that the Peatland Code requires as part of the project’s design. Financial additionality means that the project would not be financially viable without the payments from the unit sales, and therefore that these payments are enabling ‘additional’ environmental outcomes that otherwise would not have been achieved. To meet the Peatland Code’s financial additionality test, the carbon financing element must be a minimum of 15% of the entire funding stack for any project.

Using the calculator, the team mapped the lifetime costs of the project against its public funding sources, such as any remedial action in the two years after restoration. This identified the funding shortfall of the project to be met by carbon financing. Knowing the shortfall, the 15% financial additionality requirement, and the number of units it had to sell, the team established a minimum unit price that it needed. The Roberts family then set a unit price in discussions with DEYA.

On the buyer side, Woodliffe says that the quoted unit price seemed reasonable, comparing this to another offsetting scheme offered through one of DEYA’s suppliers. Woodliffe further comments that Forest Carbon and the Peatland Code restrictions provided enough assurance to DEYA on the robustness of the units. This included the guidance on how to phrase DEYA claims publicly (see below): “The last thing we would want to do is greenwash our activity, if even unintentionally.”

 

Buyer claims

DEYA now advertises its carbon purchase from the Bwlch Y Groes restoration on its website, using photos that the project team provided. Woodliffe says that the purchase has received praise from its customers and on social media.

DEYA is careful not to make ‘Net Zero’ claims on its operations, as Peatland Code Units are not permitted under the definition of ‘Net Zero’ held by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). Peatland Code Units are permitted under the definition of ‘Carbon Neutrality’, held by PAS2060.

 

What’s next

Going forward, Woodliffe says DEYA would consider another peatland project in relation to mitigating their carbon footprint.

Woodliffe and DEYA’s Social Media & Marketing Manager, Nicci, were able to visit the site in September 2022 to have an in-depth tour of the peatland by Rachel and Lisa. “We learnt a lot more about the site and peatland specifically, including the challenges the land faces. It was also great to get a feel in person of the size and vastness of the area, and obtain a better understanding of the scale of work required to restore the land,” comments Woodliffe.

 

Photo Credit: DEYA Brewing Co

 

Pennant Farm has more peatland that is eligible through the Peatland Code, which Roberts says they may use again. “We’ve learned a lot since selling. The government and the market will focus more on farmers’ ability to decarbonise and manage land sustainably. We would be happy to use the Peatland Code process to prove that our restoration plans are credible but may need to retain units for our own offsetting. If we decide to sell units, we would like to keep our units within Wales and ideally within the agriculture industry,” comments Roberts.