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Westminster reception: celebrating the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy

Every year, the Woodland Trust holds a reception at Westminster. We invite Members of Parliament (MPs), peers, key partners and supporters to rally around a common goal - to make sure the case for trees and woods is at the heart of our democracy. This year, the focus of the event was the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy (QCC). Through some passionate debate, we also asked - what else can Parliamentarians do to promote trees?

What is the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy?

The QCC is the brainchild of Frank Field MP and launched in 2015. It aims to unite the 53 nations of the Commonwealth and save one of the world’s most important natural habitats – our precious forests. A vast network of forest conservation projects reflects The Queen’s lifetime service to the Commonwealth, while conserving indigenous forests for future generations.

Frank Field MP gave the welcome address at the event (Photo: Martyn Milner Photography)
Frank Field MP gave the welcome address at the event (Photo: Martyn Milner Photography)

How are we involved?

Earlier this year, ITV aired The Queen’s Green Planet documentary where The Queen talked about her love of trees with Sir David Attenborough. We offered viewers the chance to support the QCC by giving away 50,000 trees in partnership with ITV and Sainsbury’s. They were all gone in a matter of minutes!

We have also:

  • partnered with the Mayor of London to give away another 12,000 trees to help Londoners support the QCC
  • received QCC accreditation for our Wentwood Forest, Wales’ largest ancient woodland.

Getting MPs on board

Encouraged by these efforts, we invited all Members of Parliament to show their support by planting trees in their constituencies. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response - more than 500 MPs signed up to receive our packs of five QCC trees. They’ll benefit communities across the UK, from Cornwall to the Isle of Skye. In many cases these native trees have inspired further plantings too.

Hundreds of MPs have planted trees across the UK as part of the QCC initiative, including Rachael Maskell MP pictured here with the Trust's Richard O'Callaghan (Photo: Richard O'Callaghan)
Hundreds of MPs have planted trees across the UK as part of the QCC initiative, including Rachael Maskell MP pictured here with the Trust's Richard O'Callaghan (Photo: Richard O'Callaghan)

Capitalising on the QCC

Speakers at the 12 November event encouraged attendees to build on the project’s success:

  • Frank Field MP’s welcome address highlighted the good work to date. He issued a rallying call for more efforts to preserve and strengthen the QCC across the Commonwealth.
  • Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s brand, praised everyone’s efforts and the partnership between the Woodland Trust and Sainsbury’s which has been key to delivering the project.
  • National tree champion, Sir William Worsley, and David Rutley MP (the new minister in charge of forestry), both indicated their desire to see more trees in the ground. The minister also spoke of trees’ benefits to society and the prospect of a more equal footing between forestry and farming in the future.

We’ll be working with Parliamentarians to make sure our plans for the coming years are delivered. It was gratifying to see MPs engage in such numbers and take to their plantings with great enthusiasm. Many have asked for more tree packs and are keen to explore what other projects they can take part in. We’ll be sure to make the most of their interest.

(Left to right) Sainsbury's Judith Batchelar, David Rutley MP, Woodland Trust chair Barbara, Baroness Young of Old Scone and Frank Field MP (Photo: Martyn Milner Photography)
(Left to right) Sainsbury's Judith Batchelar, David Rutley MP, Woodland Trust chair Barbara, Baroness Young of Old Scone and Frank Field MP (Photo: Martyn Milner Photography)

What’s next?

The reception was a huge success and a fitting conclusion to this hands-on programme. It has gone a long way to helping us, Sainsbury’s and our elected officials reach out and connect with the public.

Most importantly, it has seen thousands of new trees in the ground which we hope will become well-loved, nature-rich woods of the future.

Planting events through the year and discussions at the reception have given us the opportunity to strengthen the case for planting and protecting trees.

We hope that MPs are motivated to do more for their communities and we’re looking forward to seeing what comes next.  Rest assured we’ll be keeping the pressure on them to keep taking action at such a crucial time for the environment.

We believe all people have a right to the benefits of trees and woods. In the UK the Tree Charter recognises, celebrates and protects this right. Show your support by signing it now.

Celebrate the value and importance of trees and woods

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