Cautious welcome for Budget carbon guarantee

30 October 2018

Confor has give a cautious welcome to the Budget announcement that the UK Government will provide £50 million in carbon guarantees to provide liquidity for tree planting top-up payments.

Stuart Goodall, Confor's CEO, was initially sceptical of the announcement by Chancellor Philip Hammond, as the £50 million was not in any budget line.

However, after seeking clarity from HM Treasury, Mr Goodall said: "In essence, this money will provide greater liquidity for purchasing carbon in new woodland, topping up the grants where they are insufficient to make a planting scheme viable. That had been a real problem, so this could be a real solution and that should be welcomed."

He continued: "It should also raise awareness and confidence in the investment opportunity, hopefully attracting greater private investment in the future. The carbon units will be verified through the Woodland Carbon Code. The announcement says 10 million more trees over 30 years, which would be the proverbial drop in the ocean - but it could be many more."

Much would depend on the design and delivery of the scheme by Defra and the Forestry Commission, Mr Goodall added.

He still expressed concern that the long-term tree planting ambitions set out by the UK Government were not being matched by current planting or backed up by detailed policy.

"The Clean Growth Strategy and 25 Year Environment Plan set out a heightened ambition for tree planting - 7500 hectares a year until 2042, to increase tree cover in England from 10 to 12 per cent," he said. "Appointing the Tree Champion and opening up for woodland creation applications all year round had raised hopes that we would start to see a genuinely new approach to planting. 

"Yet despite the £50 million for carbon guarantees, the impression is that the Government is still not taking tree planting seriously enough."

Mr Goodall said the £10 million for urban planting and street trees in the Budget was positive news, but added: "There is no chance of getting anywhere near the long-term targets without support for productive planting at scale. 

"Climate change reports describe forestry as a 'simple, low-cost option' to help meet climate change targets - but we still don't see any sign of Government joining the dots meaningfully between forestry and climate change. It's time to start taking tree planting seriously and understand planting significant new areas of woodland can have a hugely positive impact on our environment and economy."

* Section 5.12 of the Budget (Clean Growth) says: 

Funding for tree planting – Planting trees helps offset carbon emissions and supports wildlife. To provide the long-term certainty needed for investment in woodland, the government will set up a Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme which will support the planting of around 10 million trees by purchasing up to £50 million of carbon credits for qualifying tree planting. The government will also provide £10 million funding between 2019-20 and 2022-23 for local community street trees and urban trees. (40)