Climate Assembly supports forestry in fight against climate change

10 September 2020

Creating more forests and managing woodlands better has been identified as the top policy recommendation to remove greenhouse gases and accelerate the UK's path towards net zero emissions by 2050.

99 per cent of members of Climate Assembly UK, drawn from a representative sample of the population, supported planting more forests and managing existing woodlands better when faced with a set of policy choices on greenhouse gas removals.  

Restoring and managing peatlands and wetlands was second (85%), closely followed by using more wood in construction (82%). The report said that "more technological solutions were considered potentially costly and unproven".

Stuart Goodall, CEO of Confor, said the findings in the greenhouse gas removals section of The Path To Net Zero report were "startling but very welcome" and that the timing of the report was ideal - offering the UK Government a great opportunity to shape the England Tree Strategy to reflect what the public wanted.

Mr Goodall said: "There is always a tendency to look for new technological solutions rather than embrace what is staring us in our face. Trees are an amazing source of a low-carbon, infinitely renewable and relatively inexpensive material.

"It’s startling, but very welcome to see that 99% of the members of the Climate Assembly supported more forests and better forest management as the top recommendation for policy action to remove greenhouse gases.

"Their support is very timely as the UK Government consultation on the new Tree Strategy for England closes tomorrow [Friday 11th September], and I would call on the UK Government to take serious note of the Assembly’s report. 

"Confor's response to the Strategy calls for more tree planting, better management of existing woodlands and greater home-grown wood use - which totally fits in with what this report is saying."

Mr Goodall also welcomed the recognition of the greater use of wood in construction.

He said: "An under-appreciated opportunity to tackle climate change is the greater use of wood, and therefore it’s great to see that 82% of the members of the Assembly identified using more wood in construction as a key action for Government.

"It is vital to grow and use more UK wood, as we currently importing more then 80% of the wood we use and WWF have estimated that global wood consumption will treble by 2060. By growing more forests and using more wood, we derive environmental and economic benefit at home and reduce the pressure on fragile global forests, making illegal logging less likely to happen."

The report, published today, contains a wealth of information on the preferences of a representative sample of UK citizens on a wide range of measures that might form part of the Government’s policy pathway to net zero.

Six Select Committees of the House of Commons commissioned the citizens’ assembly to understand public preferences on how the UK should tackle climate change because of the impact these decisions will have on people’s lives.

The assembly's 108 members come from all walks of life and are representative of the UK population in terms of: age, gender, ethnicity, educational level, where in the UK they live, whether they live in an urban or a rural area, and their level of concern about climate change.

The assembly met for six weekends between late January and mid-May 2020  – the first three took place face-to-face in Birmingham; the last three online after the arrival of Covid-19 in the UK. 

Read the specific forestry and wood chapter here.