Confor presses forestry case with new ministerial team

Confor has urged the new ministerial team at Defra to work with the industry to drive up tree planting rates significantly to tackle the damaging effects of climate change.

New Forestry Minister Zac Goldsmith MP has a track record of environmental activism and Confor hopes that he will push for rapid increases in tree planting to help tackle the climate emergency.

His new boss, Secretary of State for the Environment, Theresa Villiers MP, has also shown support for tree planting. In a Westminster Hall debate on Forestry in England in January 2018, she said: “A key goal for all of us who recognise the benefits of woods and forests is not just protecting what we have, but planting more trees.” 

She went on to express the wish that the private sector should do more to help achieve the long term goal of 12 per cent afforestation in England by 2060.

Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall said he hoped for early meetings with both the Secretary of State and the Forestry Minister.

He added: “We very much look forward to working with Theresa Villiers and Zac Goldsmith to continue pushing forestry and wood products up the political agenda. The imperative to plant many more trees - especially productive forestry at scale - is greater than ever. Successive reports from the Committee on Climate Change have identified a vital role for large-scale tree planting in removing atmospheric carbon and mitigating the damaging effects of climate change, while using wood locks up that carbon.”

The letter to Theresa Villiers says: “Confor and its members look forward to working with you to drive up tree planting in England. A significant increase is necessary to meet national targets and make a critical contribution to alleviating the global climate emergency - but it is very achievable through constructive partnership working.”

Mr Goodall said he was especially keen to discuss positive progress made in areas like Northumberland. “There are a number of initiatives coming together which make me confident that with political support, we can really see a step change in planting and woodland management - which would be a positive investment in a cleaner, greener future for the UK,” he said.

“It is also crucial in these meetings to gain further clarity on how funding for forestry will work after Brexit.”

As well as his appointment as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at Defra

(Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Mr Goldsmith is a Minister of State at the Department for International Development.

Mr Goodall added: “This is a very interesting combination of portfolios and I hope to raise the issue with Zac Goldsmith of how planting more trees at home can reduce the long-term need for imported timber. We need to do everything we can to stop exporting our forest and carbon footprint.”

Mr Goodall also paid tribute to Michael Gove MP and David Rutley MP.

“Michael Gove really pushed the climate change and environment brief up the political agenda and David Rutley developed a real understanding of the benefits of more tree planting and the greater use of home-grown wood. We worked very closely with him and one of his final ministerial visits was to see forestry and wood processing in Northumberland. We are very keen to work with Defra officials to get Zac Goldsmith on a similar visit soon to start delivering on the real potential of the forestry and timber sector.”

Confor has extended a similar invitation to Theresa Villers.