Great chance for forestry to be at heart of Welsh focus on climate change

16 June 2021

Confor's National Manager for Wales has urged the new Welsh Government to put forestry and wood at the heart of its efforts to tackle climate change.

Julie James, a Labour Member of the Senedd (MS), has been appointed to the new role of Climate Change Minister - supported by Deputy Minister, Lee Waters MS. 

Mr Waters has already announced that he will be leading "a deep-dive exercise to identify the barriers to tree planting in Wales, and set out proposals to overcome them". 

Anthony Geddes, Confor's National Manager for Wales, said: "I'm pleased to see a fresh approach at Welsh Government level, which puts climate change at the heart of policy making - and positive initial signs of an understanding that forestry and wood must be a key component of tackling the impacts of climate change. 

"By linking up areas like forestry, timber, housing and environmental regulation, I hope ministers will be empowered to make changes at the breadth and scale required to remove the major barriers to creating new forests and woodland. With biodiversity policy and flood and air quality improvement in the same portfolio, I look forward to some pragmatic, joined-up thinking." 

Mr Geddes said both Julie James and Lee Waters had voiced support for timber in construction and understood the role wood could play in building sustainable housing in Wales.  

He added: "We now need to bring that support for wood use back to the forest and deliver the creation of new sustainable woodland in Wales. Planting rates are disappointing because we know there is demand to plant trees and we know that funding is there to do it. I look forward to working closely with the new ministerial team to help remove those blockages in the system that prevent well-designed modern and mixed-species forests being created. Confor has some very clear ideas, based on deep industry knowledge, that can support these efforts." 

Mr Geddes, supported by Confor's Wales Committee, will be pushing for the new team to implement the five-point plan in Confor's election manifesto, The Wood and the Trees. "The plan calls for political leadership and accountability to hit Welsh planting targets and to make tree planting easier – the previous significant funding increase was the first step in achieving this," said Mr Geddes. "There is a visible commitment to use more Welsh timber, which is amongst other key points in the plan - and if we can realise increase planting to secure future wood supplies, we can deliver on the need to invest in forestry skills and technology."