Confor welcomes 'hard targets' for tree planting

31 January 2019

Confor's evidence to two parliamentary committees examining the new Environment Bill has welcomed the proposal to put long-term woodland creation targets on a statutory footing.

The call for evidence by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) and Environmental Audit committees closes today. 

Confor's response says: that Confor "considers the most beneficial policy for forestry and woodland in the bill is the intention to put the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (25 YEP), including increased tree planting targets, on a statutory footing."  

It suggests that, "combined with ongoing monitoring and reporting by the new Office for Environmental Protection and tackling barriers to tree planting" [this] could mean afforestation targets now considered as ‘aspirations’ will actually be achieved, delivering significant associated environmental, economic and societal benefits.  

"Taken together, these measures could lead to a big increase in tree planting and afforestation in the UK. There are significant financial and non-financial barriers to overcome currently standing in the way of the UK achieving its tree planting targets. Confor believes increased partnership working between government agencies can help address these barriers." 

The 25 YEP proposes a long-term planting target which would mean 7,500 hectares of new planting in England to 2042. 

Caroline Ayre, Confor's National Manager for England, said: "We are way off those targets at the moment, but both climate change targets and the likely shift in the balance of land use after Brexit will create momentum for new planting. 

"Against this backdrop, putting the long-term planting aspirations on a statutory footing is crucial, as it creates 'hard targets' against which future governments tree planting rates can be judged." 

Some of the commitments in the 25YEP - including naming a Tree Champion (Sir William Worsley) - have been met. However, many of its commitments are at a very early stage - including Forestry Investment Zones - and Confor believes they will benefit from being put on a statutory footing. 

Confor's evidence also looks at what kind of new planting is required, how to increase woodland management and using more timber in construction. The full evidence is on the Confor website here and concludes: "Confor hopes the Environment Bill can be a catalyst for positive change to overcome barriers and to deliver environmental, economic and societal benefits through increased tree planting and greater use of timber."