He also called on the industry to speak about what it does in clear language. "Talk English and talk in a way that affects people's lives - don't be arboricultural nerds!" he said. "Reach out to the majority who know little or nothing about trees and forestry and talk in an immediate and accessible way."
Lord Deben said he was "disappointed" by the response of the Scottish Government to the latest Climate Change Committee update which highlighted that Scotland is off track on its target to plant 18,000 hectares of new woodland by 2024/5 [it planted just under 10,500 hectares in 2021/22, which still comprises 75%+ of the UK total].
"In previous reports I have gone out of my way to congratulate the Scottish Government and I thought they would have accepted the criticism in the same way they accepted the congratulations," he said. "If you have committed to do it, you must do it. People must recognise the enormity of the task and the need to deliver.
"I want Scotland to recover its position as the lead country in the UK for forestry so I can go back to the other countries and say 'Why can't you do as well as Scotland?'"
He also urged farming and forestry to work better together, and criticised the farming lobby for claims that new woodlands would take land out of food production. "As you get older," the 83-year-old said, "you realise much more that it's not about either-or choices, it's much more about both-and."
Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall welcomed Lord Deben's comments. He said: "I agree there is a remarkable future for our industry. We need to develop a vision to realise it."
This meant a clear understanding of where the industry is now, where it wants to be - and what it needed to do to get there, he added.
"We will get support if we are providing what society needs - reaching net zero, building high-quality homes and supporting rural economies in transition," Mr Goodall said. "We can deliver benefits on marginal land in terms of Levelling Up, green growth and biodiversity."
Delivering all these benefits depended fundamentally on securing the future availability of wood, he argued. This was in jeopardy, with industry forecasts suggesting UK wood supply will dip from the 2040s. "Just when we need timber to deliver a net zero economy, we will have less than we have now. And it's only ten years in England until we have less timber than we have now."
The root of the problem was the loss of wood-producing forests in England over the last decade, Mr Goodall said - with only 1280 hectares of wood-producing forests planted and 31,000 hectares of wood-producing forests removed.
In a global context, Mr Goodall quoted the Dalberg report, published at COP27, which showed a gap of 3.5 billion cubic metres of timber between the world's timber needs and future supply.
* Confor would like to thank the three conference sponsors - Gresham House, Scottish Woodlands Ltd and Tilhill.