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  • How Many Trees Do We Need to Plant?

How Many Trees Do We Need to Plant?

Aug 01 2019 Read 1087 Times

A new report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has indicated that the UK must plant 30,000 hectares of new trees every year until 2050 if it is to reach its ambitious goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, that figure may rise up to as many as 50,000 hectares if environmental improvements in other industries and sectors are not forthcoming.

For comparison, last year the UK planted a mere 13,400 hectares of new trees across the whole nation. That means that it must more than double current efforts (and perhaps almost quadruple them) if it is to stay on track with meeting its climate targets in the future. The CCC has used the report as a springboard to call for greater government incentives and relaxed bureaucracy for implementing the necessary changes.

A dramatic improvement

At present, the percentage of UK land covered by trees stands at just 13%, which is far below the EU average of 42%. The CCC, which is comprised of researchers, academics and experts at the forefront of business, economics and science and advises the government on its environmental strategy, has insisted that figure must rise to 17% by 2050, or approximately 1.5 billion more trees in a little over 30 years.

Some areas of the UK are performing better than others. Scotland, for example, is head and shoulders above the other home nations, with 19% of its territory considered as “forested area”. Wales has just 15%, England 10% and Northern Ireland 8%. What’s more, Scotland is also outperforming its counterparts in terms of new trees planted. Last year, Scottish authorities planted 11,210 hectares of new trees, compared to just 1,420 in England, 520 in Wales and 240 in Northern Ireland.

Bureaucracy holding England back

These disproportionate figures come despite the fact that concerns over environmental emissions are widespread across the UK. It’s not that the public will is lacking, but rather the political one; anecdotal evidence indicates that it’s far easier to obtain permission to plant north of the border than it is in other parts of the UK.

Andy Howard, whose business concerns itself with sourcing new locations for forested areas, has explained that it took him two “utterly painful” years to secure permission to plant 600,000 new trees in Northumberland, while a similar project in Scotland was given the green light in just 10 months. “There's often significant pushback from the Forestry Commission on the visual impact of woodland on the landscape,” he said.

Benefits clear for all to see

Planting more trees has a wide range of important benefits for those living in their vicinity and for the global population as a whole. Not only can they act as an absorber of carbon dioxide, thus reducing the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere, but they also help to offer shelter for soil in agricultural regions, as well as buffer against the worse impacts of tropical storms and safeguard water quality.

Although the replacement of petrol and diesel-powered cars with more environmentally-friendly forms of road transportation is expected to reduce pollution in urban locations, trees can also help in other ways. They can help mitigate the urban heat trapped in concrete buildings and pavements and also improve the mental wellbeing of a city’s inhabitants. As such, planting more trees is a no brainer in a multitude of senses.

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