We must maintain our relentless focus on tackling both the climate and nature crises together - Woodland Trust
This week in Parliament, the Woodland Trust presented Parliamentarians with the opportunity to hear more about their Emergency Tree Plan, setting out key recommendations for national and local governments across the UK.
Speaking at the Woodland Trust’s Parliamentary reception earlier this week, Defra Minister Lord Goldsmith recognised the need to back nature-based solutions to tackle climate change, but admitted “in truth we are miles behind.”
Lord Goldsmith explained strengthening nature is essential to tackle climate change and could provide a third of the most “cost effective solutions”, “alleviating base poverty” and “helping to reverse the extinction crisis.”
We depend on trees and woodlands “to regulate the world’s climate”, he explained and recognised “their destruction is the world’s second biggest contributor to CO2 emissions.”
At the reception, the Woodland Trust presented Parliamentarians with the opportunity to hear more about their Emergency Tree Plan, setting out key recommendations for national and local governments across the UK.
The Woodland Trust’s Chief Executive, Dr Darren Moorcroft highlighted that “there has never been a more important time for us to deploy trees as the ultimate nature-based solution in the fight against climate change as well as the loss of nature.”
Dr Moorcroft identified that, shockingly, half of our woodland species tracked by the UK’s State of Nature Report are in decline, and particularly those that rely on structurally diverse native woodlands.
Dr Moorcroft cautioned: “It is not enough to simply champion more trees, they have to be the right trees, they have to be in the right place and they have to be managed in the right way.”
Referring to the severe flooding that has taken place across the country over recent months, Lord Goldsmith said “where people’s lives have been turned absolutely upside down by the flooding, there is an unavoidable fact that trees are a significant part of the solution.”
“When you plant trees, you increase the absorbability of the land and you slow down water and you make it less likely that severe floods are going to hit in the years to come,” he said.
Hosting the reception, Jason McCartney MP said he would be asking his local council to write an Emergency Tree Plan, and said that he hoped his colleagues “will do that as well.”
The Woodland Trust are already working hard to plant trees across the country. Since the Woodland Trust was first founded in 1972, the charity has planted 47 million trees. Alongside this, by the end of February, the first half a million UK and Irish sourced and grown trees will be distributed around the country.
Dr Moorcroft said the Woodland Trust is committed to playing their part, and that it is important the Government delivers on big policy opportunities now available. Commenting on the Agriculture Bill, he said the Government must be “unapologetic about the need for public funds for public goods,” and challenged the Government to deliver an “ambitious” Environment Bill.
Dr Moorcroft called on the Government’s policies to be “driven by environmental and social justice.”
“We hope that the forthcoming Budget will support the truly nature-based solutions,” he continued.
Lord Goldsmith explained the Environment Bill will commit us to “continually improve our underlying health of our natural environment.”
Discussing England’s Tree Strategy, the Woodland Trust’s Chief Executive argued it should be “linked to net zero,” and firmly focused on protecting and restoring pre-existing nature we already have.
A tree friendly Parliament
Jason McCartney, a member of the APPG for Woods and Trees, said the group’s last meeting proved “there was a real passion to make the most of this tree friendly Parliament.”
He praised the Woodland Trust for influencing and strengthening protections for ancient woods and veteran trees, which “provoked a very healthy debate amongst the political parties at the general election when it comes to tree cover.”
Dr Moorcroft echoed the MP’s sentiments: “we were all struck by just how significant the woods and trees role was in the election pledges that we saw in the manifesto as part of the general election.”
We will “require a route map and fortunately the Woodland Trust’s Emergency Tree Plan is going to play its role in being that route map,” Dr Moorcroft continued.
Lord Goldsmith spoke positively about the progress the Government was making and recognised the importance of having a “proper dialogue with organisations like the Woodland Trust,” to tackle these issues.
Hosting COP26 at the end of this year gives the UK a “massive opportunity to shift and move the argument as much as possible in favour of nature,” he continued.
Dr Moorcroft reiterated Lord Goldsmith’s sentiments, welcoming COP26 as an opportunity to raise “awareness of the importance of nature-based solutions” on a global scale.
At the reception, it was announced the Woodland Trust have partnered with Lloyds Banking Group as part of an initiative to see 10 million trees go into the ground over the next decade.
Speaking at the reception was Fiona Cannon, the Director of Responsible Business, Sustainability and Inclusion for Lloyds Banking Group, who said Lloyds recognised “reforestation as a critical way of tackling climate change.”
Dr Moorcroft identified the need to work with business in the private sector, including Lloyds, to “provide the crucial private finance that will mean nature-based solutions are at the heart of both government policy and practice on the ground.”