THE UK has once again missed its annual tree-planting targets. 

New statistics show 13,840 hectares were planted in the 12 months prior to March 2022, around a third of the government's goal of 30,000 ha each year by the end of 2025. The figure is only slightly higher than 2021's total of 13,410 ha. 

Scotland came out on top of the country's four nations, creating 10,480 ha of new woodlands or around 80 per cent of its own annual target. However, the yearly figure had fallen on both 2020 and 2021, with the disruptive effect of the planting season's winter storms cited as one of the reasons for this. 

READ MORE: Boris Johnson told to take 'personal responsibility' over UK's failure to hit tree planting targets again


According to the Forest Research document, England created 2,260 ha of new woodland, Wales 580 ha and Northern Ireland 540 ha. All three totals were up on 2021's figures. 

Scotland's Environment Minister, Mairi McAllan, said: “Over the last four years Scotland has consistently created over 10,000 ha of new woodland each year. This has been achieved during the challenges caused by Brexit, the global Covid pandemic, and the worst winter storms for over 10 years.

Forestry Journal: Mairi McAllan blamed the winter storms for Scotland missing out on its own target Mairi McAllan blamed the winter storms for Scotland missing out on its own target

“While it is disappointing that we have not met this year’s target, mother nature dealt us a salutary lesson of the power of the weather and reminded us of the challenges of climate change.

"Even now, clear up operations from the storms are continuing so it is no surprise that they had an effect on tree planting operations." 

In a change to 2021's figures, more broadleaves were planted than conifers across the UK, with only Scotland putting more of the latter in the ground. Overall 6,960 ha of broadleaves were planted (up from 6,220 ha), while conifers accounted for 6,880 ha (down from 7,190 ha in 2021). 

"This is a total policy failure in both economic and environmental terms," said Stuart Goodall, chief executive of forestry and wood trade body Confor. "Report after report has shown that increased tree planting and wood use is vital to meeting the UK's net-zero targets - yet this is not being translated into trees in the ground."

The Forest Research findings are the latest in a series this year that have found the government is falling well short of its goals. Both the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee and National Audit Office (NAO) criticised ministers for failing to do more to reach 30,000 ha per year. 

READ MORE: EFRA tree planting report 2022: 300 woodland creation roles must be filled by 2025

The EFRA report, published in March, found: 

  • That it was unclear if enough funding had been allocated to hit tree planting targets 
  • More work must be done with the UK's nurseries to increase production 
  • A bigger push is needed to reduce the country's reliance on imported timber 
  • The principle of 'the right tree in the right place' should be at the heart of all woodland creation plans 

At the time, Environment Secretary, George Eustice, insisted the goals were still achievable. 

Today, he said: “We have stretching and ambitious targets when it comes to tree planting, and just last year we launched the England Trees Action Plan.

"Through the plan, we will plant 30,000 hectares of new woodland every year in the UK by the end of this Parliament, backed up by over £500m of Nature for Climate Funding.”