UK Government urged to put tree planting targets into legislation

Tree planting targets should be enshrined in legislation to display a clear commitment to meeting them. In its response to the England Tree Strategy consultation, forestry and wood trade body Confor says this could be done with an amendment to the Environment Bill.

Confor also wants a review of application and approval processes for planting, similar to the Mackinnon Review in Scotland, which kick-started a tree planting surge north of the border.

In its wide-ranging consultation response, Confor - which represents 1,500 forestry and wood-using businesses - says: “The Tree Strategy needs to be joined up, from the forest to the end product, supporting three main and very closely linked objectives, which bring together the entire forestry and wood supply chain:

  • Plant more trees;
  • Manage more of our existing woodland;
  • Use more home-grown wood.”

Confor urges the Government to understand the importance of our forests to people during lockdown - and how the industry can deliver environmental, economic and social value to lead a Green Recovery from Covid-19.

Its response says: “The consultation presents an excellent opportunity to produce a Strategy for our economy, environment and society at a time when policy interventions delivering multiple benefits must be prioritised.

“As the UK plots a way forward beyond the pandemic, our forests and woods have a vital role in delivering a Green Recovery - as well as a crucial part to play in meeting

longer-term targets, including the UK’s ambition to be Net Zero by 2050 to tackle the climate emergency.”

Caroline Ayre, Confor’s National Manager for England, said: “The England Tree Strategy represents an excellent opportunity to ‘turn the dial’ and really puts forests and wood at the heart of our environmental and economic future. We have seen a very positive approach from Lord Goldsmith since he became Minister and will continue working closely and constructively with him to deliver this exciting agenda.

“The benefits of forestry and wood are not either/or options - creating jobs and economic growth can go hand in hand with tackling the climate and nature emergencies and providing beautiful places for people to enjoy the natural world. Seizing this opportunity can set the UK on a path to a net-zero economy by 2050, and a long-term sustainable rural future.”

The consultation response says the key to unlock these multiple benefits is “an approach to public policy and funding which works in tandem with woodland owners’ and businesses’ interests. Doing that will ensure benefits are sustainable and enduring, not just for the lifetime of a grant or specific initiative.”

Ms Ayre said: “We are very clear in our response - this is not just about tree planting, but about better management of the forests we have, and greater wood use. The three must be approached together in a joined-up way; that’s how we will see multiple benefits delivered.

“However, planting trees is the starting-point - and targets are just numbers on a page, when it is about trees in the ground. That’s why we think enshrining the targets in legislation is a great first step for the UK Government to show its commitment, combined with an external review of the approvals process.

“We also need a similar clear focus on supporting management of woodland – stronger markets for wood will help, as will finally taking the substantive action required to tackle deer and squirrel damage.”

  • The England Tree Strategy consultation closed on Friday 11th September. Confor’s full response can be read here