The latest meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry and Tree Planting laid out the work being done to ensure the UK produces more home-grown timber in future and ends its reliance on imports. Carolyne Locher reports.

TWENTY-FOUR hours before the All Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry and Tree Planting (APPG) was due to meet in person, an email arrived with the news that all external meetings planned on the parliamentary estate were cancelled due to a COVID outbreak.

The reorganised online event began shortly after the COP26 ‘Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use’, which highlighted “the role that forests and wood must play in tackling climate change,” said Stuart Goodall, CEO of Confor.

He continued: “Responsibility for forests globally must start at home. The UK government is still not delivering the planting needed to produce the wood required, signalling the export of our forest footprint abroad. This is not the leadership the planet needs. We need to plant modern, well-managed, mixed-species forests to support the fight against climate change, while delivering benefits for society, the environment and the economy. Do this and the UK could claim a global leadership role.”

In his opening remarks, APPG chair Ben Lake MP announced that the ‘Wood Manifesto’, ‘Growing our low-carbon future: Time for Timber’ (a collaboration between wood industries in Europe, Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Australia, making the case for the increased use of wood in construction and renovation), was launched just before COP26. 

He said: “Previous online events have highlighted the relationship between biodiversity and wood production, stressing that the two can co-exist. Modern forestry is not either-or. We must take more responsibility for producing our own wood.”


Neil Parish MP, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee, offered some ‘Key lessons from the Tree Planting and Woodlands Inquiry’. “It is not just planting trees, but growing the right timber, helping to stop soil erosion and flooding, and finding the right land to plant on,” he said. “I get concerned by political parties upping planting numbers with little thought of what they will grow and of what the end result will be. Those trees will grow and absorb carbon. They will be cut down and built with or used. The parts are not yet joined up.”

The inquiry has met with researchers, trade bodies, third-sector groups, farming and landowning organisations, the FC and Natural England. The final report will be published following a meeting with Lord Goldsmith.

READ MORE: Who’s frightened by latest forestry facts and figures for new tree planting? - Dr Terry Mabbett

The select committee has heard that “the key to reaching UK planting targets is getting the incentives right, removing key barriers and skills shortages to ensure that enough trees are planted in time in the right place. We are not growing enough trees and we need a joined-up approach, a viable economic model allowing farmers, landowners and the forestry industry to plant.

“We have heard that lower subsidies are paid for trees than for farming and that detail is lacking on how trees will be supported under ELMS. As a farmer myself, we must avoid creating systems that compete with land that is good for food production. Under ELMS, smaller non-timber-producing schemes produce natural benefits. We must then consider the types of forests to plant, commercial, semi-commercial, and where. Will we have enough public access? Will we be able to grow the right types of tree from seed grown in this country that is disease free when planted?

“Tree planting is a long-term business. It will be interesting to see the take-up while sustaining an income on that land until there is an income from trees. 

Forestry Journal: Neil Parish MP, left Neil Parish MP, left

“We have looked at using more home-grown timber in the economy (construction) and how that helps with net zero by locking up carbon. 

“Finally, existing woodlands contribute to climate and nature objectives. In Europe, forests are managed and used. In the UK, many woodlands are for sale. People buy them to enjoy, but little management is done from a conservation and economic perspective. We are going in the right direction, but England can do substantially better.”


APPG vice chair Deidre Brock MP presented ‘How Scotland is delivering its tree planting commitments’. She said: “It is fitting this meeting falls on the day COP26 announced the ‘Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use’, with more than 100 leaders calling for collective action to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, alongside sustainable development, increased financial support and inclusive rural partnerships. It recognises the importance nature-based solutions play in the climate emergency.” 
Scotland is currently planting 80 per cent of the trees in the UK. “It is worth reflecting on what lies behind this achievement and our vision for the future.

“The 19th century’s chronic lack of trees (five per cent cover) was considered a strategic problem and, following the Forestry Act of 1919, most species planted were designed to maximise timber production. As environmental understanding developed, so did modern forestry practices and the industrial, intensive single-purpose forestry of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s could not continue.”

Forestry Journal: Deidre Brock MPDeidre Brock MP

Drawing on initiatives from the Rio Earth Summit, a new approach developed around a consensus to follow internationally recognised principles of sustainable forest management. “Scotland’s modern forest legislation, practices and related policies are based on these.”

Scotland’s forests now cover 1.45 million ha (19 per cent of the land area). They are home to 172 protected species, support 25,000 jobs and generate an estimated £1 billion to the economy each year. The Scottish government recently increased yearly planting targets from 12,000 ha to 18,000 by 2024/5, or 36 million new trees.

Scotland has a 50-year vision for forestry. “One reason for the success is the close working relationship between government, the civil service, the forest industry (and Confor) and woodland owners, and also from environmental organisations and community groups, and an increasing interest in rewilding. 

“It takes sustained commitment, financial support and long-term planning from government. The Scottish government is investing a further £150 million to meet enhanced planting targets, to ensure capacity in tree nurseries and increasing Scottish timber in construction from 2.2 m³ (2018) to 2.6 m³ in 2021/2022.”

Scotland’s forests absorb an estimated 6.2 m tonnes of CO2 each year or 10 per cent of Scotland’s gross GHG emissions. “Our policies are joined–up, linking planting to climate-change mitigation and promoting a greater use of wood and the forest as a place for people to enjoy.”


Chair of the Forestry Commission, Sir William Worsley, outlined ‘How the Forestry Commission is working to meet government tree planting targets’.

“The England Trees Action Plan (ETAP) is ambitious. Trebling planting rates in the lifetime of this parliament is no mean feat in a small, crowded country like England. This is one of more than 80 commitments. Not only will we plant more trees, we will better look after those we already have and make sure they deliver the widest range of benefits for the widest range of stakeholders possible.” 

The FC is supporting this in four ways:
1.     EWCO will help accelerate all types of tree planting and establishment across the country and boost planting and establishment of trees in urban and non-woodland areas for local community benefit. Forestry England will expand the PFE in partnership with private landowners.
2.     Launching a new ‘Centre for Forest Protection’ will support ancient and long-established woodlands. A new fund will support tree nursery innovation for more healthy trees to be sourced from within the UK.

Forestry Journal: Sir William WorsleySir William Worsley
3.     To create green jobs across the country, a new fund will be set up to help private investment help to level-up rural areas.
4.     For public access, at least three new community forests will be established and the FC will create an England-wide plan to improve public accessibility.

“It will be a national effort, involving government, land managers, foresters, NGOs, community groups and others. Planting a balanced mix of trees can offset our carbon footprint and help to improve nature’s stock and biodiversity. Creating productive forests can reduce our over-reliance on imported timber, create new green jobs and improve public access to those forests.”

Since launching in June, The English Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) has had nearly 250 applications. “We have engaged with stakeholders to ensure the right support is provided. Alongside Lord Goldsmith, I have co-chaired events with nursery sector land agents to get feedback on what more we can do to help, and ensuring EWCO aligns with

ELMS to remove the barriers preventing people from planting.
“In the last spending review, government announced the expansion of the Nature for Climate Fund, ensuring spending of more than £750 m by 2024/5. I look forward to working with you all to make the most of the opportunities we have.”


In ‘How forestry and wood processing sectors are doing their bit to deliver England Tree Action Plan outcomes’, Caroline Ayre, Confor national manager for England, said: “From ETAP, we have a clear remit from Lord Goldsmith and DEFRA to move things forward.”

An ‘English Forest and Wood-based Industries Leadership Group’ will author an ‘industrial strategy’ and ‘action plan’, highlighting where forestry and wood-based industries can contribute to economic growth, climate-change mitigation and net zero. “With DEFRA, the group will develop a ‘timber in construction’ policy, to increase the safe use of timber in public and private construction, recognising that timber production must increase over the next decades. 

“I want the UK to put its big-boy pants on and grow more of our own wood, not off-shore our responsibility onto others.  It is not just about timber production for jobs and economic growth. It’s about timber production for climate change, biodiversity and people.”

Forestry Journal: Caroline AyreCaroline Ayre

Following an industry visit organised by Confor, DEFRA officials “seemed to realise it is not about wood production at all costs, rather it is what forestry delivers for communities through professional silivicultural practice and standards. We need mosaics, plantings of all types. We certainly need more planting for timber production. I look forward to an industrial strategy demonstrating that the UK is finally ready to take responsibility for growing its own timber.”

Confor’s Stuart Goodall offered four takeaways from the event. “I was impressed by Neil Parish’s point of not just setting targets but to think about what we are planting and where. Deidre Brock said Scotland’s achievements happened because of consensus between government, industry and environmental and community groups. Getting people around a table, things are achievable.  From Caroline Ayre, the new industry leadership group and strategy is good news. An interesting point was made by Sir William Worsley about green finance being used to level-up rural areas.”

Forestry Journal: Stuart GoodallStuart Goodall

Ben Lake closed the session by thanking all who contributed and attended. He said: “It was an interesting discussion; while it was a shame that we could not meet in person. I do hope that we can do so in the near future.”