Enabling Nature Based Carbon Sequestration

Helping Oxfordshire reach net zero by developing an ethical, sustainable and localised approach to nature-based carbon offsetting.

View from Uffington Hill


Oxfordshire's local authorities have ambitious carbon reduction targets and are working towards net zero carbon by 2030. Nature has a key role to play in reaching this goal. We are helping Oxfordshire reach its net zero target by developing an innovative approach to carbon offsetting that puts Oxfordshire's nature front and centre, enabling Oxfordshire's businesses and local authorities’ opportunities to invest in nature-based carbon sequestration schemes within the county. This will increase investment in nature-based solutions whilst helping reach shared net zero ambitions.


Following 2021's Pathways to a Zero Carbon Oxfordshire project, an Oxfordshire Net Zero Road Map and Action Plan has been approved by Oxfordshire's six councils through the Future Oxfordshire Partnership. This Route Map identifies key areas for collaborative working to meet the councils' net zero targets, including carbon sequestration. Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership is leading on a project to explore opportunities to enhance carbon sequestration through land use change, including targeted habitat restoration and creation. We are also helping to explore new funding mechanisms to support delivery of net zero actions.

The challenge

Oxfordshire local authorities and businesses are working hard to reduce carbon emissions as far as possible, but will still need to offset residual carbon emissions to reach net zero. However, existing carbon offsetting schemes do not offer opportunities to invest in schemes delivered within the county. Current verified carbon offsetting mechanisms and markets are limited to tree/woodland planting (constrained by Oxfordshire's land availability) and peatland restoration (for which there is negligible scope in Oxfordshire). Establishing an Oxfordshire nature-based carbon offset scheme requires an innovative new mechanism.

The opportunity to innovate

This project will develop a new and innovative approach to carbon offsetting, enabling Oxfordshire's businesses and local authorities’ opportunities to invest in nature-based carbon sequestration schemes within the county, increasing investment in nature-based solutions whilst helping to reach shared net zero ambitions. We will build on existing work in this area, such as the Authority-Based Insetting approach being developed by Anthesis, to deliver multi-functional nature based offsetting schemes, providing benefits such as: 

1. Delivery of new natural capital, designed to deliver specific ecosystem services, e.g. flood prevention.

2. Creation of investment opportunities for localised nature-based carbon offsets, bringing benefits to the local economy, employment, and skills.

3. Provision of high-quality green infrastructure schemes close to where people live and work, providing health and well-being benefits, and aligning with Natural England's Green Infrastructure Strategy.

4. Provision of funding for projects arising from the forthcoming Oxfordshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy.


Working with local stakeholders, the project will:

1. Review current research in the county and existing methodologies for measuring carbon sequestered by different nature-based intervention.

2. Define potential mechanisms, such as Area-Based Insetting that would allow investment in nature-based carbon offset projects in Oxfordshire.

3. Support the preparation in each constituent local authority area of at least one at-scale investment ready nature-based carbon offset pilot project.

4. Support wider LNP Nature Finance work, including contributing to roll-out of the Oxfordshire Nature Finance Strategy.

This innovative project has potential to fundamentally change approaches to carbon offsetting by defining a scalable and financially sustainable approach, not limited to tree planting and peatland restoration, but through a diverse range of local habitat creation schemes. This represents significant value for money for the partnership's local authorities, the taxpayer, and the wider UK.

Enabling adoption at scale of innovative products and services

It has become apparent that it is difficult to prove that existing carbon offsetting schemes are achieving their intended purpose. Currently there is no market solution that approaches carbon offsetting through means other than woodland or peatland creation, and none that capture the outputs within Oxfordshire.

Several established and emerging mechanisms for measuring the carbon sequestration properties of nature-based solutions exist. We are learning from best practice and research to develop innovative approaches that combine the carbon capture of diverse nature-based solutions into a financially viable nature-based carbon offsetting scheme in Oxfordshire.

The Enabling Nature-based Carbon Offsetting in Oxfordshire Project aims to develop:

- An ethical and sustainable approach to carbon offsetting on a localised basis.

- A holistic approach that recognises the carbon sequestration benefits of a variety of habitat types, not solely based upon tree-planting or restoring peatland.

- Cost models enabling payments to landowners for delivery of nature-based carbon offsetting schemes.

- Mechanisms enabling local organisations to subscribe to a local nature-based carbon credit system, which funds delivery and administration of offsetting schemes.

- A multi-functional scheme that improves biodiversity whilst maximising the benefits to the local economy and to health and wellbeing.

- A model that can be scaled across the country, and broadened in scope to fund delivery of other ecosystem services.