THE National Trust will plant or establish 2 million trees over the next four years with a £4 million gift from HSBC UK, the charity has said.

The funding will be used to create woodland covering around 2,000 ha.

The woodland will lock in 1.25 million tonnes of carbon, the equivalent of taking 15,000 cars off the road a year, the trust said.

Most of the woodland is being created near urban areas, so people in towns and cities will be able to visit new nature-rich woods, according to the charity.

Sites in England which will see woodland creation include Killerton, near Exeter, Devon, Wallington in Northumberland, Dunham Massey, Cheshire, the Buscot and Coleshill Estate, Oxfordshire, and Wimpole in Cambridgeshire.

Woodland and other habitat which stores carbon is also set to be created in Wales and Northern Ireland, with sites in the process of being identified.

The £4 million gift is the biggest environmental donation the National Trust has ever received and is part of HSBC’s climate solutions partnership, which aims to unlock barriers to finance for companies and projects that tackle climate change to bring them to scale.

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The scheme will involve National Trust staff, volunteers and communities, as well as HSBC employees, and will involve tree planting and then letting woods expand through natural regeneration.

National Trust director general Hilary McGrady said: “This gift represents a major step in our attempt to try and tackle the effects of climate change and ensures we can plant the trees in the right places to really maximise the impact they will have in locking in carbon.

“This donation offers so much more than just tree planting. By creating these woodlands, we hope to see further benefits by allowing the landscape to regenerate naturally and without the need for so much intervention by way of tree planting in the future.

“Nature has a way of healing if we can just give it a chance. The recent lockdowns have taught us that access to nature is more important than ever, and by planting trees in the right places we can ensure these carbon rich habitats work for both nature and people.”

Michaela Wright, head of corporate sustainability, HSBC UK, said the climate solutions partnership aimed to accelerate change in the short term to help realise international goals on tackling climate change in the long term.

“We believe nature-based solutions can provide a third of the global climate mitigation needed by 2030, protecting nature as well as meeting people’s needs,” she said.

The National Trust has committed to planting or establishing 20 million trees, covering an area the size of Birmingham, as part of the charity’s plan to cut its emissions to zero overall – known as net zero – by 2030.

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