‘Enthusiasm for trees is something that affects everybody, regardless of where they are in the political divide’ – Defra minister
Defra Minister David Rutley MP joined Frank Field MP, Sainsbury’s and a host of other environmental stakeholders at a recent parliamentary event organised by the Woodland Trust to promote the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy and the Five saplings project.
Frank Field MP welcomed MPs, peers and other guests to an event in the Members’ Dining Room of the House of Commons. He said the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy project brings together people who not only just love trees, but also those who recognise that the future of trees is linked to the future of our planet:
“The beginning of the Queen’s Rainforest Canopy was a real desperate attempt to try and find how we could do politics differently in the Commonwealth. We have this wonderful, extraordinary organisation where a few people try and dictate to the mass of Commonwealth members and the idea was could we not just offer a menu of things which Commonwealth countries might like to opt into”.
Defra minister David Rutley MP thanked Frank Field MP for his vision in getting this project off the ground.
Mr Field added that the success of this project was such that “it is the first environmental project the Queen has become interested in, in the whole of her reign, although she has spent much of her reign planting trees”.
Minister David Rutley MP said:
“The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy is a fantastic initiative. It is giving the Commonwealth a real opportunity to save its forests whilst celebrating the Queen’s service to the Commonwealth.
“Every commonwealth country is participating in this truly in international initiative from the Americans to Africa and I am delighted that all 53 members have nominated or dedicated existing or future conservation projects that meet the broad objectives of this initiative.
“By working with countries across the world we will create a pan-Commonwealth network for forest conservation projects, celebrating the conserving of indigenous forests for future generations for decades and centuries to come”.
The Commonwealth Canopy project also has a national and local element too, which was referred to by Frank Field: “The idea was if we could get most if not all MPs in this country to plant trees from the Woodland Trust which would then become part of the Queen’s Canopy project.”
Woodland Trust Chair, Baroness Young of Old Scone spoke about the success of the Five Saplings tree planting scheme amongst her parliamentary colleagues in the House of Commons:
“We’ve had over 500 MPs including the Prime Minister planting trees. We had the Prime Minister out a couple of weeks ago. She really joined with nature and got the personal benefits that you get from being associated with trees as well as the environmental and cultural ones”.
She added it was a privilege for the Woodland Trust to have been involved and thanked ITV and Sainsbury’s for their partnership in this project.
Baroness Young recognised that as well as MPs planting trees, 12,000 families in London and 10,000 families across the rest of the UK have planted trees in support of the canopy. She added:
“For me the time of the tree has come. Trees are really now being seen as the omni-purpose environmental and social tool. They are good for water, they’re good for soil, good for air, help manage floods, they sequester carbon, they deal with climate change, they help with heat, they give shade and shelter to farm and animals, they’re good for our health, and they’re good for our mental health”.
Baroness Young added that the Woodland Trust would continue to push for ambitious tree planting targets and increased woodland cover. She said the 11 million tree planting target for the five-year parliament in the 2017 Conservative party election manifesto should be increased to 11 million per year.
She added that the Woodland Trust supported extra protection for ancient woodland which were “being hammered by public infrastructure schemes”.
Whilst welcoming recent money allocated in the Budget for tree planting, it was £60 million over thirty years as opposed to £30 billion recently announced for road infrastructure. An additional £10 million for urban tree planting was also welcomed.
The Woodland Trust repeated calls for a Land use strategy for England, given that all other UK nations have one and called for additional protections for street trees to prevent local authorities like Sheffield City Council from chopping these down without properly consulting local communities.
Judith Batchelar, Director of Sainsbury’s Brand, addressed the event and spoke about the partnership between her company and the Woodland Trust which began in 2004 through selling woodland eggs and other products:
“We have a 15-year relationship that is based on a trading and commercial relationship, so we don’t just write a cheque. We actually get ourselves involved in the work of the Woodland Trust”.
She added that the partnership had ensured nearly 1 million trees were planted as additional tree cover for egg laying hens.
“Our farmers producing those woodland eggs have planted nearly a million trees as tree cover but more importantly we have customers who have engaged in this and the billions of eggs that we have sold have contributed to basically over £8 million worth of farms and over 3 million trees being planted”.
Ms Batchelar added that the link between Sainsbury’s and the Woodland Trust was so clear through product labelling and branding, it was easy for customers to understand what she referred to as a lightning rod:
“That lightning rod means that every time a customer buys a woodland product in our stores, it is a vote for trees and I think that connection is a really strong one and it gets stronger every year.”
Sir William Worsley, the UK Tree Champion also congratulated everyone concerned with the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy. He referred to the success of MPs planting trees and sharing these stories on social media:
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing the number of MPs including the Prime Minister tweeting about how they’ve planted trees. I think that’s great as it is getting the message across, that MPs actually value planting trees”. He added that the National Forest Company which he chairs was one of the first organisations to sign up to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy project in the UK together with Epping Forest.
David Rutley MP confirmed that he would go a step further than most MPs by planting more than the five saplings around his Macclesfield constituency:
“With the help of the Woodland Trust I want to plant around 1000 saplings – because I want to make a mark here to say we are really serious about this initiative”.
Having explained that under the government’s new land management system, forestry would be on an equal footing to agriculture, the minister again praised this scheme:
“This is a really important national project. It is one that is really capturing the national imagination. Whether representing schools or charities or care homes or individuals planting for personal reasons. Because planting a tree is a symbol for people and one of the many ways that we can connect with nature in its most simple way.