Confor urges greater climate ambition from Michael Gove

27 November 2018

Confor has welcomed Michael Gove’s public recognition of the need to significantly increase tree planting rates to meet UK climate change targets - but urged him to also include the opportunity to use more home-grown wood as part of a shift to a low-carbon economy.

Mr Gove, Secretary of State for the Environment, highlighted in a major speech on UK Climate Change Projections that "planting more trees is a highly cost-effective method for storing additional carbon from the atmosphere." 

Confor's Chief Executive Stuart Goodall urged Mr Gove and the UK Government to be bolder in their ambition.

He said: "It’s important that Mr Gove has publicly recognised the carbon capture property of growing trees, which was highlighted in the recent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report, but he should also reflect the CCC’s call for the greater use of home-grown wood in the fight against climate change." 

The CCC report last week called for a "more radical policy" in favour of tree planting as the "incremental change" of the past wasn't enough and a step change in planting rates was needed to make an impact on climate change targets. 

Mr Gove also said in his speech: "To meet future carbon budgets and our long-term target to increase woodland cover from 10% to 12% in England by 2060, we will need to significantly increase planting rates. That’s why next year, we will consult on a new English Tree Strategy in which we set out what benefits we value from trees and how we will accelerate woodland creation.

"We are also improving our package of incentives for forestry. In the Budget, the Chancellor announced a £50 million Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme. This will pump prime the woodland carbon offset market, helping to stimulate private sector demand for offset units and driving more investment into forestry." 

Mr Goodall said: "Theses are all positive steps in the right direction, but if we are truly serious about tackling climate change then as well as significantly greater tree planting, we need to move quickly to a low-carbon economy and wood is perfectly suited to that. Society faces a challenge in limiting temperature rises while supporting jobs and generating taxes in support of the health service – productive forests and wood can be a key part of the solution.

"The promise of a new Strategy is also welcome, but it’s vital that it is a strategy for forestry and wood, not simply for trees."