WATER companies in England have announced plans to plant 11 million trees to support their goal of achieving a carbon-neutral water industry by 2030.

The joint proposals will see trees planted on around 6,000 ha of land across England, together with work to restore original woodland and improve natural habitats that provide carbon capture. While some of this land is owned by the water companies themselves, additional land will be provided by partners such as local authorities, the National Trust, Wildlife Trusts and RSPB.

Local partnerships with councils and regional NGOs will ensure that projects include urban tree planting. In addition, the Woodland Trust has agreed to work with all the companies to help identify sites and manage the planting programme.

The companies, including the nine major water and sewerage providers in England, have committed to fully deliver the habitat-improvement programme, which will include hedgerows and grasslands as well as trees.

Companies are also committed to ensuring their plans align with government tree-planting and habitat-improvement programmes and have already had discussions with the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, including through the Government Tree Champion Sir William Worsley. The industry already has plans in place to plant the first 2.5 million of the 11 million trees. The next priority will be to identify additional sites across England which are appropriate for tree planting or habitat restoration.

Sir William Worsley said: “I welcome this pledge from England’s water companies, who have clearly seen the value in planting trees and acknowledged the vital role they will play in helping us to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“Trees are carbon sinks, provide crucial habitats for precious wildlife, mitigate flood risk and provide a valuable renewable resource in timber – and I encourage other industries to follow Water UK’s excellent example to ensure we boost planting rates across the country.”

Richard Flint, chief executive of Yorkshire Water, said: “As an industry, the water sector is committed to fighting climate change through becoming carbon neutral by 2030. Our ambitious pledge announced today will go a long way to meeting that target, and will also deliver greater biodiversity, improved water quality and better flood protection. In recent years water companies in England have made significant contributions towards tackling some of the greatest environmental challenges that we face, and today’s announcement is just the latest example of that commitment to the environment.”