SCOTLAND needs to plant up to one billion trees to achieve the country’s ambitious climate change goals and help the economy recover from the coronavirus crisis, a group of environmental consultants have said.

Kaitiaki Consulting Limited, which is based in Edinburgh and New Zealand, argues thousands of nature-based jobs should be created to help with large-scale tree planting and restoration projects.

It has launched a drive to create a Billion Trees Scotland initiative, emulating New Zealand’s plan to plant one billion trees by 2028.

Sonny Whitelaw, environmental management expert and head of New Zealand operations with Kaitiaki Consulting, said: “New Zealand is at the forefront of innovative collaborative landscape-scale conservation techniques and Kaitiaki Consulting is bringing the best of New Zealand conservation efforts to Scotland.

“In New Zealand we have a Billion Tree initiative and have planted 149 million in the last few years.

“We believe that Scotland should commit to planting a billion trees, which would sequester billion of tonnes of carbon.

“There is a global biodiversity and climate crisis and nations must work together to address these huge challenges.”  

Nicola Sturgeon declared a 'climate emergency' at the SNP conference last year, and has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2045.

The Scottish Government aims to plant 30 million trees a year by the end of this Parliament.

But Kaitiaki Consulting said ministers should be even more ambitious over the next 25 years.

It said planting trees is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

It aims to bring together global experts, politicians, councils and environmental groups to achieve the aim of one billion new trees.

Kaitiaki is a Māori concept for guardianship of the sky, the sea, and the land.

Alex Foulkes, Edinburgh-based conservationist and managing director of the consultancy, said: “We need to urgently examine how we use land in Scotland and how our actions impact on species, the environmentand our climate. 

“Scotland has world-leading plans to become carbon neutral, but to achieve this will require more ambitious targets on large-scale tree-planting.

“We should be aiming to plant one billion trees in Scotland through a widespread and sustained combined effort from government at all levels as well as private businesses, communities and philanthropists.

“By planting trees, restoring soils and protecting a range of habitats such as peatlands, we can not only reverse the decline in biodiversity but also play a crucial part in addressing the looming climate crisis.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Planting trees is a vital part of our fight against climate change which, together with other measures,  including peatland restoration, will help end Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045. 

“More than 22 million trees were planted in Scotland in 2018/19, 84 per cent of all new tree planting in the UK, and the Scottish Government is now committed to trying to plant 30 million trees per year by the end of this Parliament.

“The climate emergency has not gone away and we remain committed to our climate change targets. We are continuing to lead global climate action including, when the time is right, through a green recovery towards net-zero.”

This story first appeared in The Herald.

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