MPs and Lords have established a new group to safeguard the future of the country’s forests and the wood processing sector.
The new All Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry (APPGF) was launched yesterday to highlight the urgent need for more investment in the forestry and wood-processing sector.
The group will focus on the need for increased levels of sustainable forestry, helping to drive UK support for the wider forestry and wood-processing sector.
At the launch event in the House of Commons, the group’s organisers, Confor – a non-government organisation that promotes sustainable forestry and wood production – highlighted that the forestry and wood processing sector is currently under serious threat unless urgent action is taken by UK and devolved government.
Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, set out how forestry and wood processing supports 2.5% of the UK economy and three-quarters of a million jobs. He urged MPs to call on the government to commit to investing in the sector to enable the planting of more trees to sustain long-term growth.
Forest cover in the UK is currently just one eighth of land (just 13%), compared to the EU average of over one third of land (37%) and estimates show a severe drop off in the availability of timber after 2030. MPs heard that there is an immediate need to plant more trees but existing barriers prevent this.
MPs at the event also discussed how the benefits of planting more tress go above and beyond economic factors. More British planting, MPs claimed, would also help address problems of illegal timber highlighted in a recent Early Day Motion signed by almost 40 MPs.
Confor also used the event to point out some of the benefits of planting more forests in the UK – on the economy, the environment and also on general societal wellbeing.
With proper investment and commitment from the government the forestry sector could deliver an additional 7000 jobs in deprived rural areas and increased planting could mean that by 2050, forestry alone could decrease 10% of the UK’s annual greenhouse gases emissions.
Chris Davies MP, newly elected Chair of the APPGF, said:
“A successful forestry and wood processing sector is positive for the economy, the environment, recreation and health. We’ve got a long way to go in getting this higher up the political agenda, but with cross party, cross industry engagement we’re excited about the possibilities.”
In addition to electing Chris Davies MP as Chair of the APPGF, MPs elected three vice chairs: Lord Clark of Windermere, Lord Boswell of Aynho and Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
Stuart Goodall from Confor welcomed the formation of the Group:
“The need for increased levels of sustainable forestry and support for the wider forestry and wood processing sector has never been more important. The sector needs a secure long-term supply of timber, and woodlands need to be managed responsibly to protect them from climate change and pests/diseases.
Confor’s 2014 ‘Delivering Green Growth Report’ sets out three key asks for the government to consider backing which are: to plant more productive forests, stimulate markets for timber and deploy ‘wood first’ policies in all public building projects, and encourage active forest management to deliver the widest possible range of benefits.