MPs launch new inquiry on government tree-planting targets

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The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee is set to investigate whether the Government will be able to meet its new goal of increasing tree planting to 30,000 hectares a year by 2025.

In January, the Committee on Climate Change recommended increasing UK forestry cover to 17% by 2050- an increase of two-fifths of the land area currently covered by trees.

However, in light of previously missed targets, MPs have launched an inquiry on whether the Government’s targets are realistic.

Chair of the EFRA Committee, Neil Parish MP, commented on the announcement: “Planting trees is seen as an easy win in the fight against climate-warming greenhouse gases but we need to do it in the right way to make sure we maximise the benefits.

“The Government has rightly set ambitious targets, so it’s vital to make sure it has learnt lessons from past promises that haven’t been met.

“The past year has taught us the importance of outdoor spaces which we can all enjoy, so we must make sure new and existing woodlands benefit communities and improve our mental and physical health.

“It is essential that, in scrabbling to meet targets, the Government’s tree-planting strategy is not a blunt tool.

“Rather, this needs to be a plan which factors in the many ways in which increased tree-planting can bring economic growth, benefit nature and improve human well-being.”

The new inquiry, Tree Planting and Woodlands, will therefore scrutinise whether the Government’s targets are realistic, whilst still being ambitious enough, and whether it has the right strategy to deliver them.

The inquiry will look beyond the question of how many trees need to be planted, examining whether the right trees will be planted in the right places.

It will also consider whether enough is being done to protect and enhance existing woodlands, alongside creating new ones.

The inquiry will also focus on how the Government’s forthcoming Tree Strategy for England will balance the different opportunities that expanding woodland coverage will present for nature and the environment, health and well-being, and the economy.

It will also consider the impact on other land uses such as food production, other natural habitats and the landscape.

The Committee is seeking written evidence on the following questions, with an initial deadline of 19 November: 

  • Are the UK Government’s targets for increasing forestry coverage, and tree planting, for England and the UK sufficiently ambitious and realistic?
  • Are the right structures in place to ensure that the UK wide target for increasing forestry coverage is delivered?
  • How effective is the co-ordination between the four nations on forestry issues, including biosecurity, plant health and other cross-border issues?
  • Why were previous ambitions for increasing tree planting in England not met and what lessons should be learned?
  • Are the right policies and funding in place to appropriately protect and manage existing woodlands in England?
  • How will prospective changes to policy and legislation effect this?

In relation to increasing tree planting in England, what should the Government be trying to achieve? For example, how should the following policy objectives be prioritised?

  • Mitigating or adapting to climate change;
  • Promoting biodiversity and nature recovery;
  • Increasing biosecurity and plant health;
  • Improving human well-being and health;
  • Protecting natural and cultural heritage;
  • Food security;
  • Creating commercial opportunities from forestry, tourism and recreation; and
  • Any other priorities?

More information about the consultation and submitting evidence is available here