Tree planting statistics released today show the scale of the challenge in meeting the net zero emissions target Government has committed to, say the Woodland Trust. It will require a three-fold increase in current woodland creation levels.
Figures however are up overall across the UK, mainly because of large increases in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but figures for England are down. The Woodland Trust was responsible for planting 50% of the whole broadleaf woodland figure reported for England.
Provisional figures released by the Forestry Commission* show that although the amount of new woodland created rose to 13,000 hectares from 9,000 the previous year across the UK, targets have been missed. In England just 1,420 hectares of woodland was created against the Government aspirational target of 5,000 per year.
The percentage of woodland cover in the UK remains at 13% (10% in England, 15% in Wales, 19% in Scotland and 8% in Northern Ireland).
Yesterday the Government committed to act on the Comittee on Climate Change recommendations and legislate for net zero emissions by 2050. The CCC report called for an increase in UK woodland cover to 17% by 2050. This would require a planting rate of 30,000 hectares a year until 2050.
Woodland Trust director of conservation and external affairs Abi Bunker said:
“The UK needs renewed ambition when it comes to tree planting and woodland expansion. The scale of what needs to be achieved to reach net zero targets is obvious; it will necessitate a three-fold increase on current levels.
“Let’s not shy away from the truth. It will be a challenge, it will cost money, it will mean tough choices, but the human race is at a crossroads for our environmental future. To avoid climate breakdown we have to act, that’s the reality we live in, tough choices, big challenge, but we can all rise to meet it head on.”
“If the framework is in place, meeting the ambition of 17% tree cover is achievable. We stand ready to work with Government to develop innovative approaches to delivery as the launch of the Northern Forest Innovation Fund this week demonstrates. But it is essential to address the climate and natural environment crises together – recognising them as being interconnected and not two separate challenges – this means that native woodland along with other natural habitats will play an important role for both carbon and biodiversity.”