Government advisers lay down challenge on tree planting

25 June 2020

Tree planting policy has failed outside Scotland, according to the UK Government's independent advisers on climate change in a hard-hitting assessment published today, which also provided welcome recognition of the role of wood in construction.

In Reducing UK Emissions: Progress Report to Parliament, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says: "We must seize the opportunity to make the COVID-19 recovery a defining moment in tackling the climate crisis." 

Its report builds on the six key principles for a resilient recovery outlined in a letter by the CCC to the Prime Minister in May.  

"We are pleased to see these principles guiding the growing momentum for a green recovery," the CCC says. 

Tree planting is again highlighted as a central part of "transformational land use change" and the report calls for "a strategic mechanism to fund tree planting", as well as a recognition of the important role greater use of wood can play in decarbonising construction. 

Lord Deben, Chair of the CCC, highlighted tree planting and greater use of home-grown wood as vital to delivering on the UK's climate change ambitions when he spoke at a webinar organised by Confor for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry and Tree Planting last month. 

Today's CCC report makes it clear that existing policy on tree planting is failing. 

It says: "The Government has included climate mitigation (i.e. reducing emissions) and adaptation (i.e. preparing for the impacts of climate change) as key 'public goods' to be paid for as part of the UK's overhaul of agriculture and land policy through the Agriculture and Environment Bills. The final legislation and detailed policy design will need to be strong and effective to deliver the transformational change needed – the current voluntary approach has failed to cut agricultural emissions, there has been no coherent policy to improve the resilience of the agriculture sector, and tree planting policy has failed outside of Scotland." 

Stuart Goodall, Confor's CEO, said: "This is very stark language from the Committee on Climate Change - tree planting policy has failed outside Scotland.  

"I take no pleasure in reading those words but as the CCC says, we must seize the opportunity and move from ambition to action. 

"We have very ambitious planting targets of 30,000 hectares across the UK by 2025, but we are only planting around 13,500 hectares now. Turning ambition into action means recognising that we include the planting of large-scale productive forests to meet those targets.  

"If we can do that, we help tackle both the climate and nature emergencies - and produce more home-grown timber which decarbonises construction and reduces our global environmental footprint. In doing so, we will support the green recovery.  

"I will be raising all these issues at the next APPG webinar with Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith on July 8th."