“30,000 Hectares of Woodland Per Year” Says Climate Change Body

Increasing the UK’s woodland and forestry cover from 13 per cent to 17 per cent has been suggested as one of the ways the UK can transform to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 by The Committee on Climate Change.

The Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) report Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK considers a range of options to reduce emissions across the UK.

The increase of forestry cover to 17 per cent will require a minimum planting of 30,000 hectares of broadleaf and conifer woodland every year until 2050.

Achieving this, alongside better woodland management, would deliver “annual emissions sequestration by 2050 of 14Mt CO2 [metric tonnes of carbon dioxide] in forests with an additional 14Mt CO2 equivalent from harvested materials,” the report asserts.

The report continues that such forests store carbon in the landscape, while harvester materials can be used for sustainable combustion and carbon sequestration in the energy sector. Similarly, wood can be used in construction, creating an additional stock of carbon in the built environment.

“Changing the way we use our land is critical to delivering the UK’s net-zero target. The options we are proposing would see farmers and land managers – the stewards of the land – delivering actions to reduce emissions. Doing so can provide new revenue opportunities for farmers, better air quality and improved biodiversity, and more green spaces for us all to enjoy. But major changes are required and action from government is needed quickly if we are to reap the rewards.”

 – Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC

The committee has suggested a combination of incentives and regulations to drive these changes and provide the long-term clarity needed. If carried out, they would release around one-fifth of agricultural land for actions that store carbon and reduce emissions.

The committee has said this should be funded by a levy on greenhouse gas-emitting industries like aviation, but must not offset emissions reduction needed to meet net-zero in other parts of the economy. The CCC also found that these measures carry a cost of around £1.4 billion a year, but will seek to generate wider benefits of £4 billion a year. The majority can be provided privately but total costs would need to be met through public and private funding.

Whilst some people think that the report will be beneficial, they think the measures recommended don’t go far enough:

“The recommendations to support agroforestry and woodland creation are encouraging, but the target must be raised to double the UK’s tree cover… Recommendations based on private funding must not be allowed to open the door for corporate offsetting schemes which would let companies off the hook for cutting their carbon emissions.”

 – Sandra Bell, Campaigner at Friends of the Earth

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