Natural Capital Committee highlights "major gains" from tree planting in meeting environmental targets

The government should factor in the multiple benefits of trees in preparing its 25-Year Environment Plan, according to the committee set up to advise it on environmental policy.

Image: Christine McIntosh (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Image: Christine McIntosh (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Natural Capital Committee's (NCC) said in a report published last week that increasing woodland and vegetation cover "can make a significant contribution" to the overall national environmental goals it identifies.

"Planting the right trees in the right places can deliver major gains in terms of reducing air and water pollution, decreasing flood risk and soil erosion, delivering recreation and health benefits, providing habitats for wild species and reducing greenhouse gases, storing carbon and helping to stabilise the climate," it states.

"Woodlands can also offer sustainable renewable fuel supplies thereby contributing to associated industries and employment together with tourism and timber revenues. All of these should feature in the appraisal and decision making progress to ensure best value for money from any investment."

Meanwhile in a new report by forest and timber industry body Confor says the ending of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) offers UK policymakers a chance to integrate greater tree planting into a wider rural policy.

In A Common Countryside Policy, it says the CAP has not only "built barriers between farming and other land uses like tourism and forestry and created a culture of thinking about the countryside biased in favour of agriculture", but also penalised farmers if they planted trees.

Focussing rural policy support beyond agriculture would enable the UK government "to tackle challenges like local employment, reducing carbon emissions and key national requirements such as construction, health, and education," it says.

To simply replace the CAP with a British Agricultural Policy "would be a massive missed opportunity", it warns.

Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall said: "Our report calls for fair, equal treatment for forestry and all other land uses.

"Farmers and landowners should be given the opportunity to make decisions on what is best for their land based on long-term and wide-ranging benefit - not on the need to chase subsidy."

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