Political parties pledge to push up tree planting

16 November 2019

Pledges to increase tree planting significantly by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are a sign that forestry has moved right up the political agenda, according to Confor.

Stuart Goodall, Confor CEO, welcomed the fact that tree planting has become a high-profile topic during the election campaign, after the Conservatives promised to plant around 30 million trees a year by 2025 and the Lib Dems said they would aim to plant 60 million trees by the same date. 

Link to the BBC story here 

Confor's Woodland Carbon targets, published this year, call for the UK to plant 30,000 hectares of new forests by 2025 - about 60 million trees given a balance of species and about 2000 trees planted per hectare. Confor wrote to all the main political parties to sign up to these targets in their election manifestos. 

Mr Goodall said: "With the SNP smashing tree planting targets in Scotland and Labour promising more ambitious, science-based targets, I am very encouraged by this enhanced focus on forestry and all the benefits it can deliver. 

"It's heartening to see the main parties have been listening to the forestry and wood processing sector's consistent call for more tree planting - to help tackle the climate emergency but also to stimulate the rural economy, help reduce flood risk and encourage biodiversity." 

Mr Goodall called on all government agencies with a role in creating a successful countryside - including Forestry Commission, Natural England and the National Parks - to buy into the new approach to drive up the planting of modern, mixed-species forests. 

"We must move away from the dither and delay that has at times characterised previous governments' efforts to plant more trees. Wholesale change  might be required in the way we encourage people to plant trees with regional initiatives like the planned Northumberland Forest Partnership needed to achieve the step change in tree planting we need if politicians are truly serious about tackling the climate emergency and are not simply deploying it as a soundbite." 

* Stuart Goodall wrote to all the main political parties immediately after the election was announced - asking them to commit to planting 30,000 hectares of new woodland annually by 2025 across the UK (about 60 million trees planted every year). 

The figures are part of "ambitious, but achievable" targets set by Confor in its Woodland Carbon Targets paper - and recognise that tree planting at scale is a "simple, low-cost option" to reduce the damaging impacts of climate change. 

The paper sets stepped UK-wide targets rising from 15,000 hectares in 2020 to 30,000 in 2025 - and rising to 40,000 hectares in 2030. 

This is broken down into specific targets for the four constituent parts of the UK - with the 2025 target including 15,000 hectares in Scotland, 7500 in England, 6000 in Wales and 1500 in Northern Ireland. 

"Confor set these targets after talking to members and other interest groups - and looking at the other targets out there," said Mr Goodall. "We know they are ambitious, but we believe they are achievable. We chose to focus on the 2025 targets as that takes us just beyond the end of the next 5-year parliamentary term."