The Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) report published on 2 May outlines the stark increase in woodland expansion needed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The report recognises that neither internally legally binding targets (as seen in the Climate Change Act) nor externally binding commitments (the Paris Accord) will be met given the current trajectory in the reduction of carbon emissions.
The CCC analysis outlines that 32,000 hectares annually of net woodland increase is required for the next 30 years. This moves the UK from 13% to 17% woodland cover. This equates to a million new hectares of woodland cover, and around 1.5 billion trees.
Beccy Speight, CEO, Woodland Trust said:
“It is essential to address the climate and natural environment crises together. Recognising them as being interconnected and not two separate challenges. Climate change is the biggest long-term threat faced by our natural environment and our ecosystem, and thus our own life support system. Woods, trees and their associated wildlife and the landscapes in which they sit are being impacted by climate change in a multitude of ways.
“These impacts are acting on ecosystems that are already under pressure from a history of habitat loss and fragmentation. This has been from use of pesticides/ insecticides, simplification of landscapes, lost keystone species, pollution, overgrazing, non-native and/or invasive species and pests and diseases. This myriad of challenges for the UK’s wildlife and our natural environment is already leading to species extinctions. As well as a loss in the abundance of insects, birds and other species, and a loss in the diversity of species, structures and natural processes making up our ecosystems. Climate change compounds these issues.
“But let’s make no mistake, trees and expanded woodland cover are also a huge part of the solution, as iterated in the CCC report, because of their ability to sequester carbon. To make an impact, new woodland creation and natural regeneration will need to happen on a faster and far greater scale than ever before and be sustained over several decades. If this need is met, at least in part, with native woods and trees they will also provide a plethora of additional benefits for wildlife and people, helping to tackle the damage to our natural environment and offset the other impacts of climate change for us as a species at the same time.”
Find out more here about The Committee of Climate Change here.