Soil Carbon

At present the soil carbon market is not fully developed. Measurement of volumes and permanence of carbon sequestered lacks standardisation. It can be confusing for the land manager who is interested in trading soil carbon due to the number of similar trading platforms. Standards can vary by country and even by trading platform/organisation within a country. Some methods suggest 2-3 tonnes C02 can be sequestered by soil per hectare per annum, others more than 5 tonnes. There are trading platforms suggesting they are selling at £10/tonne others reaching figures of £25-30/tonne in Europe and the USA.  

Nevertheless, the market appears promising as companies, both small and multi-national look to offset their carbon footprint and reach net-zero. Whilst they will try to reduce their operational emissions as much as possible most will not be able to reach net-zero without the use of carbon offsetting to reach their final target. This creates a demand with significant potential but also a requirement for regulation and consistency.  

The introduction of the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMs) and its ‘public money for public goods’ mantra, will reward land managers for taking environmentally beneficial actions including sequestering carbon through soil management. It may be possible to trade this sequestered carbon.  

Soil Carbon Code 

The UK Government hopes the open market will be a means of driving investment in environmentally beneficial practices. However, they must address the issues surrounding measurement and the avoidance of double-counting units. While there is no current soil equivalent to the Woodland and Peatland carbon codes, the Government has indicated that such a code is in production. The establishment of a Soil Carbon Code is eagerly anticipated and should aid the market by providing a robust, recognised standard in which buyers can have confidence.   

DEFRA and the ADHB are working together to develop a carbon foot printing tool for soil carbon to be applied at a UK wide level by 2023. This would address the issue of the dozens of carbon tools currently available all doing slightly different things. 

DEFRA also intends to bring together public and private sectors to help finance projects under ELMs. Private sector funding may refer to some open market trading of the scheme’s benefits, including in the form of carbon credits. However, like the Woodland and Peatland codes, the Soil Carbon Code may include an “additionality requirement” which prevents the registration of carbon sequestered from works directly funded by other means, perhaps leading to a separate, additional set of activities either parallel to or “over and above” ELMs requirements to qualify for the Soil Carbon Code. We will continue to watch the Code’s development with interest. 

If you are looking to buy or sell carbon units of this type, then please contact Alasdair Squires and we will add you to our Soil Carbon Register. 

What we can do for you: 

  • We have a register of clients interested in purchasing and selling carbon sequestered through soil management. 
  • For our guide on purchasing Woodland/Peatland/Soil Carbon units see here. 


If you are thinking of selling Pending Issuance Units or Carbon Units, whether under the Woodland Carbon code, Peatland Code, upcoming Soil Carbon code or even through a private sector measurement system, we advise you to first consider the likely future requirement for your business to become carbon neutral. You may in future require carbon offsets for your own use, and may make a net loss if you sell the carbon sequestered on your own holding only to buy further offsets from elsewhere.


Mark Burton

Mark Burton
BA(Hons). MSc. MRICS.