THE UK government’s official advisor on climate change has said 50 million new trees must be planted each year to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) report outlines that 32,000 hectares annually of net woodland increase is required for the next 30 years to hit emission targets, moving the UK from 13% to 17% woodland cover. This equates to a million new hectares of woodland cover and around 1.5 billion trees.

It comes after the UK Government instructed the CCC to provide advice on the feasibility of a net-zero carbon target – a move the committee believes could be achieved within the same budget as the current, less ambitious, Climate Change Act.

Committee chair Lord Deben said: “We can all see that the climate is changing, and it needs a serious response. The government should accept the recommendations and set about making the changes needed to deliver them, without delay.”

As well as calling for greatly increased tree planting, the report recommends that a fifth of farmland should be turned into forest, peatland or used for biomass crops and 200,000 miles of hedgerows need to be grown. And it warned zero carbon targets will not be met given the current trajectory in the reduction of carbon emissions.
Confor promised to keep tree planting at the heart of the climate change debate – and to press politicians for decisive action.

Chief executive Stuart Goodall said: “There is a growing collective will – from industry, environmental organisations and wider civil society – to plant more trees, but progress could be prevented by politicians failing to provide the leadership required.

“We need far greater ambition in England and Wales to increase tree planting and to producing more of the wood we need, here at home – and not just continue to import wood and export our carbon footprint.”

Calling for the climate and natural environment crises to be addressed together, Beccy Speight, CEO, Woodland Trust, said: “To make an impact, new woodland creation and natural regeneration will need to happen on a faster and far greater scale than ever before and be sustained over several decades. 

“If this need is met, at least in part, with native woods and trees, they will also provide a plethora of additional benefits for wildlife and people.”