Tree planting and wood use 'vital to Scotland's climate change ambitions'

8 October 2020

The key role of tree planting and wood use in meeting Scotland's climate change ambitions has been highlighted by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in an update report to the Scottish Parliament.

The CCC praised the fact that Scotland planted around 11,000 hectares of new woodland in each of the last two years, welcomed the increase in its planting commitment from 15,000 to 18,000 hectares annually by 2024/25 - and raised the prospect of even higher targets.  Its report also called for action to drive up the use of wood in construction.  

The progress report comes out ahead of Scottish Government proposals on meeting next zero to the Scottish Parliament in December, which will cover the period up to 2032. Scotland's target to become net zero (achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere) is 2045, five years ahead of the rest of the UK. 

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, said: "It is great to see the continued recognition by the CCC that tree planting and wood use has an increasing role to play in delivering on climate change mitigation, and that Scotland is well placed to take a UK lead." 

Chris Stark, CEO of the CCC, who addressed the Confor AGM last month, praised the enormous progress in tree planting in Scotland.  

Mr Goodall said: "The report says Scotland is the best performing in the UK and across the G20 (19 of the world's largest countries and the EU) in terms of tackling emissions. However, 65% of that progress is accounted for by reduction in power sector emissions and there is limited scope for further progress in that industry, so other sectors must step up. Forestry and wood is very much up for the challenge." 

Mr Goodall welcomed the specific recognition of embodied carbon in the report. "This is a major step forward, especially following the Scottish Government's recent commitment to increase the use of Scottish wood in construction from 2.2 million cubic meters (2018) to 2.6 million cubic meters in 2021/2022. 

"Increasing the use of wood in construction has a double-benefit - it stores greater quantities of carbon but also displaces more carbon-intensive materials like steel and concrete. I also welcome the emphasis in the CCC’s report on the need to assess and benchmark whole-life carbon in buildings."  

The CCC report called for a more joined-up approach to rural affairs and called for "a new rural support scheme that builds towards Scotland's climate goals". 

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “Scotland faces an extraordinary challenge in dealing with COVID-19, but we must not lose sight of the climate crisis. To reach net-zero emissions ahead of the rest of the UK and to earn its stripes as an international climate leader when the world looks to Glasgow next year, decisive action and clear policies are urgently required.” 

Lord Deben spoke up for forestry and wood when he took part in an online event organised by Confor for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry and Tree Planting in June. He said then: “We need to have many more buildings made of wood - and that justifies the need to grow the industry to deliver that,” he said.  

Read the report and associated documents here.