Not enough trees being planted in all four UK nations

The Times reports that the much-vaunted UK tree-planting goals have not been met by all four of the UK’s nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The failure to meet these goals has prevented the creation of woodland the size of Birmingham, England.

All four UK nations missed targets for tree-planting
All four UK nations missed targets for tree-planting. This image is by Michael Broad. It is free to use under an unconditional creative comments licence if you wish.

During the 2019 election campaigning, tree planting targets became a major environmental issue. The main parties were keen to get across their environmental credentials and made promises. For example, the Conservative party pledged that they would plant 116 mi² of trees a year by 2025. Big promises never met.

The website Carbon Brief found that these four nations have missed their annual targets since those election promises.

The government’s own figures indicate that tree planting has largely stalled between 2020 and 2023 at about 50 mi² annually.

In 2023-24 there was a big increase to 80 mi² but despite this the 2025 target is unattainable which is a blow to biodiversity, which is being decimated in the UK and a blow to tackling climate change.

There is a lot of friction between the need to grow the UK economy and simultaneously protect nature. The first tends to work against the second, which is exactly what has happened over many years. There is always this conflict between economic growth which requires more human activity and the protection of nature which requires less human activity and interference.

The overwhelming majority of trees planted occurred in Scotland with about 58 mi² last year. England planted 18 mi². Northern Ireland planted 16 mi² and Wales planted 2.5 mi².

This year’s election campaigning has included Labour’s promises to establish three new national forests and plant millions more trees with the help of a new task force.

The Conservatives have pledged to continue planting and to increase it by cutting red tape in the planning system.

They’ve not quoted numbers, perhaps wisely.

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth criticised the Conservative plans for being unclear because of a lack of funding commitments beyond 2024.

They prefer Labour’s plans and deem them stronger because of their pledge to plant trees at a rate in line with the UK’s binding carbon targets.

The shortfalls in tree planting has resulted in a loss of 8.5 million tonnes of carbon savings. In 2023 the UK emitted 384 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

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Post Category: Environment > Trees