Lord Deben: forestry industry must seize climate change opportunity

24 January 2019

The UK Government will not meet its climate change targets without a significant increase in tree planting and far greater use of timber in construction.

That was the clear message from Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), when he addressed the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry (APPGF). 

He told the APPGF this was a time of enormous opportunity for forestry and wood, especially as more land traditionally used for agriculture would become unprofitable under likely post-Brexit changes to farm subsidies - but he warned the industry there was hard work ahead to seize the opportunities.

“There is a context where forestry is in a very strong position but the coda is this; ministers want to have industries which are united in what they ask for. This is a crucial part of what the forestry industry has got to do and includes reaching out to the agricultural community. 

"You have a real opportunity, you are right to be enthusiastic - but the Government is not good at finding answers in detail. It's the industry that provides answers but you have to convince the government that the whole industry will back [those ideas]. You have a really important job to deliver one voice, one programme, and get the government to take action." 

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, said the private sector was now speaking with a unified voice, but urged the Forestry Commission, with its huge role as regulator, grant provider and manager of the publicly owned forests, to work more closely with the private sector. He added: "Unlike other industries, forestry has this influential public body that is in a key position to work with us to develop solutions and then to help drive them through – to make planting happen. We have to make the planting processes simpler and more certain; things have improved but not yet far enough." 

He also urged the environmental benefits of forestry to be fully appreciated: "There appears to be a complete focus on potential environmental loss from land-use change, and not on the long-term environmental benefits. Where there is overwhelming environmental benefit against limited loss, we would expect a presumption to plant. At the end of the day, tackling climate change requires change."